Developmental biology in action

By Jackie Wirz, Ph.D.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am an uber nerd. I love graphs, am conversant with Star Trek and Star Wars, and was even a Mathlete in high school. (Amazingly enough, I did have a date to junior prom, but in all honesty I probably would have been happier if I stayed home and watched the X-Files.) I lean towards quantitative science, and have always found comfort in the cold hard truth of mathematics. The field of developmental biology is fascinating, but I’ve always classified it as “too alive and squishy” for my personal research tastes.

I’m much happier working with chemicals than animal models. This preference has been with me since my earliest research experiences, where I began my career by inoculating and assaying thousands of cold, tiny Atlantic salmon. I spent a couple years smelling vaguely like fish (not surprisingly, during this time, I did not have a date to senior prom).

Fast forward several years: in my new capacity as an information scientist, I figured my odds of having to work with the “alive and squishy” stuff of developmental biology had dropped effectively to zero. However, that has all changed as I am now enrolled in the world’s most intensive developmental biology class ever: I’m expecting my first child in March!

Now I am desperately wishing I had paid more attention to all of those lectures on embryogenesis, neural crest development, or the basics of the circulatory system. My body has undergone such dramatic changes in the last 8 months, I barely recognize myself. And that doesn’t even begin to address the amazing development of the baby inside me (he is currently vigorously kicking my bladder, just for fun).

I am simply awestruck by the complexity of pregnancy, and with this new-found, “hands on” experience in developmental biology, I am looking at our research portfolio with fresh eyes.

Here at OHSU, we are no slouches in the fields of developmental biology or pediatric research.

In combination with our OHSU Center for Women’s Health and OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, I feel comfortable knowing that all aspects of my developmental biology experiment – from the basic science of blood stem cell development to my child’s future healthcare needs – rest in good hands.


Jackie Wirz is an Assistant Professor and the Biomedical Sciences Information Specialist at the Oregon Health & Science University Library. She earned her Ph.D. from Oregon Health & Science University in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and has a B.S. from Oregon State University in Biochemistry & Biophysics. Her research career has spanned 15 years and has covered diverse topics such as transcriptional regulation, macromolecular structure determination, collagen biophysics and DNA repair. Her professional interests include information, data, and knowledge management, as well as the publishing paradigms of scientists.

Additionally, Jackie is a strong proponent of science outreach and volunteers with a variety of programs designed to promote scientific literacy. Jackie believes in evolution, salted caramel buttercream and Jane Eyre.

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