That is so Chuck

In my mailbox today, I found a copy of the University of Oregon Biology Newsletter — I’m sure the publications department at my alma mater will be pleased to know that at least one of their alumni actually read it, even if, admittedly, I just give it a quick skim before filing it away in the recycling bin. This time, though, I was surprised to find an article titled “On Being a New Postdoc in the Bill Cresko Lab”. The title wasn’t surprising, since that’s the kind of thing you expect to find in a newsletter, but the author was kind of unexpected. It’s by my grad school mentor, Chuck Kimmel!

Although I still want to keep a toe in the Institute of Neuroscience (ION), I’m delighted to announce that Biology Professor Bill Cresko in the Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) here at UO has graciously accepted greenhorn (Bill’s term) me to join his lab as a postdoctoral fellow. Postdocs are typically young scientists just out of graduate school. However, I am an 81-year-old Emeritus Professor, working in the Department of Biology for over 50 years. Most of that time I’ve been a member of the ION, studying neurodevelopment in zebrafish, a species that my ION colleagues and I have promoted as a model organism for biomedical research, and that is now used in hundreds of science labs. Bill is a mere baby in comparison: He’s been in the Department of Biology for less than half the time I have. Still, he enjoys worldwide recognition for his work on evolutionary genomics and evolution of development. Now that I’m in Bill’s lab, the fish species of the moment is not the zebrafish, but the threespine stickleback, with which Bill has worked since his days as a graduate student.

Wait wait wait…you can do that? Anyone want to take on a 65 year old grad student? I wouldn’t mind rewinding the tape for a bit.

This is typical Chuck, though. When I was in his lab, I remember he’d occasionally flit off to some other lab for a while and then he’d come back with new questions and new techniques and all the grad students and post-docs would groan because now we’d have to learn new stuff and we were still trying to figure out the old stuff and we just wanted to graduate. I guess that’s how old professors stay young, though. Gotta keep on the move, gotta get exposed to fresh ideas all the time.

I notice he’s still working on fish, though. Maybe when he turns 90 he’ll be ready to take a look at spiders.


  1. mossmjp says

    Mine is still in my mail-to-go-through pile. I totally would have missed that–thanks! I learned so much about so many things in my rotation in his lab a few years after you were there.

  2. Artor says

    The same thing could work in reverse, PZ. Now you have a wider and wiser pool of people to take on as lab assistants, who can bring their own expertise to the study.

  3. Thomas Scott says

    Three (and two) spine sticklebacks are some of the coolest fish ever; way cooler than zebra danios (gag me). The summer I spent in Alaska studying juvenile sockeye salmon (prey species) was severely side tracked by the sticklebacks (nine spines too). Every summer you can see them massing around the docks at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle, pairing up and getting ready to spawn.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Science had a big article about a deep-sea fish, I think it is called rockfish.
    There has been a lot of selective pressure for long lifespan, something you rarely see in fish, or other organsims for that matter. And they are not as sluggish as greenland sharks, who live long because they have the metabolism of a glacier.
    So there is a lot of intetesting stuff left to discover in fish.

  5. strangerinastrangeland says

    A true life-long scientist! My PhD advisor was made from a similar cloth, still working on his research in plant genetics, crossing plants in the greenhouse, writing papers, learning new things long after his official retirement and until his death at 84. His enthusiasm was always an inspiration to his students and we still try to meet every few years (difficult now during Covid times of course) for a garden party – a tradition he started himself after his retirement.

  6. bravus says

    Love this so much. Definitely what I plan to do in retirement: shove all the bits of the job I dislike off my plate and learn again for pure discovery.