WLAA Profile: U-M Scientist Sees Relation Between Science and Religion

Kathleen Ignatoski, PhD, is a Senior Scientist and manages a lab in Pharmacology at University of Michigan Medicine. She savors her job and her life, and has lived in Ann Arbor almost 25 years.

“I love teaching undergraduates in lab about what we do and how we do it,” Ignatoski stated. “I love being able to ‘play with a chemistry set’ every day and discover new things.” 

She embraces her religion also, and sees science as complementing it rather than opposing it.

“I took to heart what my 8th grade science teacher told us. No one knew what God looked like,” Ignatoski explained. “He could look like an amoeba, the first life forms, or an ape. So, you can’t say what Adam looked like. Also, science tells us the age of the earth and the spinning of the earth around the sun. There is no creationism story, no dinosaurs, or no evolution. Those are scientific facts. But they do not mean that God does not exist. Why can’t there be evolution by intelligent design? I find no conflicts at all between science and my faith. If God didn’t want us to know the scientific facts, we wouldn’t. The facts are the facts, but still God exists. Hey, I was taught evolution at Penn State—a public university—by a Catholic priest. There is no conflict in my opinion.”

In fact, Ignatoski dedicates much of her time to her church outside of her scientific career.

“At SFA (Saint Francis of Assisi) I have had many roles. I was on the Worship Committee for 17 years,” she explained. “I have been an Eucharistic Minister for almost 25 years, a reader for 23 years, and I was an altar assistant for a number of years. I also play clarinet for school masses—for about 16 years, and still do. I have played clarinet for various church functions like VBS (Vacation Bible School)—for about 11 years, Living Nativity, and Christmas.”

She added that her main inspirations are her loved ones.

“My main motivations are my family,” she said. “I have coached all my kids in every sport they have played, I have taught all of their VBS (Vacation Bible School) classes, I have volunteered at the school when I could. I like knowing what they are doing when and being a part of it—as long as we have a roof over our heads, food on the table, and everyone is relatively healthy, what more can you ask for?”

Ignatoski is originally from the East Coast.

“I was born in northeast New Jersey—yeah, every one of those Sopranos landmarks shown at the beginning of the shows were near my house,” she described.

My mom was a full-blooded Italian and my dad is European mixed—mostly German, and Irish and English. I grew up with two brothers, one older and one younger, both of whom coach soccer at a Division 3 university in NJ — the older one is the men’s coach, the younger, the women’s.  We were raised Catholic, so being Catholic is ingrained in me. I didn’t fully immerse myself in Catholicism until I was older, first some in college and grad school, then much more so when we joined SFA in Ann Arbor.

Ignatoski has many other hobbies in addition to her volunteering.

“For fun, I coach sports, play soccer in an ‘Over-30’ women’s indoor league, play clarinet and sax, hike, travel, and work on our new house,” she stated. “This past year, we bought a house that required an addition to be able to sleep everyone and have an indoor shower, some renovation, and a pole barn to house our camper. We have been working on it a lot. It is still not ready, but getting there. We also trained for a one day rim to rim hike of the Grand Canyon.”

Ignatoski enjoys her beautiful family as well.

“I have been married basically 25 years to Mike, who I met during grad school,” she said. “He is a data architect for Henry Ford Health. We have a 22-year- old son who is getting his hardware certification at WCC and works at McDonald’s, a 19-year-old daughter who is majoring in interior design and minoring in real estate at Central Michigan, and a 14-year-old daughter who is a sophomore at Pioneer HS.”  

Donna’s Story

I have been a math teacher since 1990 and also see a positive relationship between science and religion. Galileo Galilei famously stated that “Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.” I studied engineering for four years at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and I earned a Mathematics Teaching Certificate Major there, and also later earned a Master of Science in Mathematics Teaching and Learning. Science is a big part of our lives in our home, but I also find inspiration in religion/spirituality and family as well. 

I first met Kathleen when I was teaching religious education at Saint Francis of Assisi church and taught children the Ten Commandments, the lives of Saints, and the Golden Rule (among other things): “Do unto others as you would have them do onto you.” I have also worked at VBS at Saint Francis in the past.