Each Monday, the Daily Voice will introduce you to a member of the UMass Medical School community—could be a new face, or maybe one that’s has been around for a while. We’ve asked our subjects to answer a few questions that might reveal a little of their personalities. If you know someone who you’d like to see profiled, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What brought you here to UMass Medical School?
My truck. Oh you mean what was my motivation for coming to UMass Medical School? I was recruited here to build the Core Electron Microscope Facility. And I was just crazy enough to think that would be a fun thing to do. Then I drove here in my truck.
What do you love most about the work that you do?
I get to see things that very few other people ever get to see, and I get to see them first.
How would you explain your work to your spouse/child/a student?
I use to tell my kids that my job was to “Think great thoughts.” They never really bought that one. Then when they got a little older I would bring them in to the lab and show them the weird stuff I look at and tell them all about it. I do the same thing with my students. A picture really is worth 1,000 words. My wife Judy, on the other hand, just calls me her “nutty professor.” I think she likes me; at least enough to listen to my excited explanations of what I was doing in the lab today.
Best kept secret about your department.
The best kept secret about our department is that we have the best coffee on campus and a secret (for emergency purposes only) bucket of chocolate!
What is the practical application of your work?
You really can’t know something in a tangible sense unless you can see it. I run a lab where you can come in and really see what is happening even down to the molecular level. It gives you a whole new prospective on the world we live in and all the things that share that world with us.
Which trait do you most admire in yourself?
That I still have that little kids’ sense of adventure and enthusiasm. Every day is a new and exciting gift. And I’m still having fun.
Describe yourself in six words or fewer.
Husband, father, friend, teacher, artist, explorer
If you were stranded on a desert island, name three things you would want.
A way off! A Swiss Army knife, and a plaid thermos full of coffee (just a little cream).
If you could have dinner with a famous person, living or dead, who would that be?
What has surprised you most about UMass Medical School?
I met my wife here!! The best thing that ever happened to me, by far.
Please provide some details about your education.
I studied Mechanical Engineering at Arizona State University’s College of Engineer and Applied Sciences. After graduating, I worked at several engineering firms in the Phoenix area, finally ending up involved in a project with W.L. Gore. That’s when I met Dr. Neil Hadley, a professor in the Department of Physiology at ASU and he convinced me that I should join his lab group, where I went on to get a master’s degree in physiology studying how to apply engineering principles and electron microscopy to the study of biological specimens. After several years there, I was recruited by the University of Vermont, College of Medicine, to build and run their first Electron Microscopy Laboratory. I went on to earn a doctorate in nutritional biochemistry at UVM while running the EM facility at the Medical School.
What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of work?
I like to bake (bread, pies, cakes and cookies!), lift weights (it keeps me in shape for playing with my grandchildren), play guitar, draw and paint and build furniture. I love fly fishing, but my favorite thing right now is making stone walls and walkways. Judy and I won the Camasses’ home project contest this summer for our front stairs and walkway. It’s like playing Tetris with real heavy pieces of rock.
What do you consider the most interesting thing about yourself that most people might not know (and you would want to tell them).
I designed the very first “Donkey Kong” game cartridge. Back when it was manufacture by Coleco , Inc. (way before Nintendo). The same people who brought us Cabbage Patch Kids” (remember those?).
What book have you read, or what movie have you seen, most recently, or what kind of music do you most enjoy?
I just finished Thomas Sowell’s new book, Dismantling America, a very disturbing and revealing look at liberalism gone crazy in American politics. So now I’m reading the second novel by Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played With Fire—much lighter subject matter.
What’s the most exciting thing happening in your field right now?
I just harvested my one pumpkin. Oh you mean what I do for work? Well that would be the new fully computer automated microscopes that allow us to do tomographic reconstruction of single particles like viruses and single molecules. Pretty cool stuff!