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Candace B. Pert

cancer and AIDS. She holds a number of patents for modified peptides in the treatment of psoriasis, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, stroke and head trauma. One of these, peptide T, is currently undergoing research for the treatment of AIDS and neuroAIDS. Dr. Pert has published more than 250 scientific papers on peptides and their receptors, and the role of these neuropeptides in the immune system. Some of Dr. Pert’s papers are among the most cited scientific scientific papers in human history. 

Dr. Pert is currently Research Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington D.C., where she conducts AIDS research. I spoke with Candace on February 23, 2004. It wasn’t easy to track her down, but when I was finally able to speak with her, I felt comfortable with her almost immediately. Candace generates a lot of warmth and energy. She gets excited and enthusiastic about her ideas, and she laughs a lot. My impression of Candace is that she’s like an octopus, capable of doing innumerable tasks at once. I spoke with her about women in science, neurogenesis, synchronicity and other unexplained phenomena, AIDS research, and her exciting work with Peptide T. 

David:   What were you like as a child?

Candace: My first thought is I was bad (laughter), but I’m working on my self-esteem so I don’t want to say that. I was the kind of child who thought she was the only person in the world. I called out in class, and never gave anyone else a chance. The adults in my life treated me like I was the sun, the moon and stars. My mother says I was incredibly curious–that was her spin. She said I was always saying “what?”, “why?”, and asking millions of questions from a very early age.                                                                                          

David:   What inspired your interest in neuroscience?

Candace: I got interested in neuroscience because I got interested in my first husband. I think a lot of my interests come from the people I meet. I absorb. I kind of do a “mind meld” with people. That’s my style–to get very close to people. So my first husband was (and is) a physiological psychologist. He wasn’t just interested in the laws of behavior and psychology, but also in the actual physiological mechanisms in the brain–how things are happening beyond the black box. So I became a biology major. This is in the late Sixties, early Seventies. I think that we used to just basically fantasize together about the whole world of what is now neuroscience. 

David:   Why is seeking truth important to you?

Candace: Seeking truth is extremely important to me just because it feels good. Everything else is below me, in the political world. Early on I saw that there’s no standards without truth. I think I got mad at some teacher who gave me a C on an English paper about this. I’m particularly interested in things that have eternal truth. I don’t know. It’s part of my heritage and background, and maybe my crazy Connecticut Yankee blood–you know congregationalists are into truth, honesty, and integrity. Truth is everything. What else is there? Everything else is fluff. (laughter)

David:   How has your sense of intuition helped to guide your research?

Candace: More and more. It’s astounding. I mean, I always went with what I had an emotional connection to in choosing my projects–what seemed interesting and exciting–but now I’m finding that my intuition plays an even bigger role. Its almost eerie. I’m using “syncho-destiny” in my life. You know about “synchro-destiny” right?

David:   I know about synchronicity.

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