A time for scholasticism

Last week OHSU received generous backing from Bob & Charlee Moore,  a couple who, in my mind, belong to a new generation of philanthropists (e.g., the Gates, the Knights, Paul Allen, etc.) who use their means to fund scientific research initiatives which have captured their imagination. It was truly an exciting occasion for the scientific community, but even more so for those of us who count OHSU our research homeland. It was a time to be proud of our affiliation—a time for scholasticism[1]. Perhaps it was the aura that this event inspired in our campus community, or perhaps it’s that I’m now beginning the final year of my Ph.D. work, I don’t know. But I’ve recently found myself taking nostalgic strolls down the hospital-lit lanes of my OHSU memories. Walk with me

The Molecular Structure of the Glutamate Receptor

One of my first classes here was Cellular Neurophysiology, a tricky team-taught course held at the Vollum, which provides enrollees with a need-to-know tour of our electrical brain. One of our lecturers was a young Dr. Eric Gouaux, who was charged with teaching the class about the structure of synapses. He presented some captivating ideas & methodologies, & so, after class one day, I approached him with my proposed structure of the glutamate receptor, in hopes to help him in his research. What I handed him (Figure 1), he dismissed as “something that seems to have come to you in a dream,” & “utter nonsense—isn’t that lactose with teeth drawn on it?.” While the former may have been true, I decided the latter to be nothing but his jealousy talking, and perhaps regret that it hadn’t come to him first. When Gouaux’s research led to solving the structure of the glutamate receptor, and, ultimately, to his induction into the National Academy of Science, I couldn’t help but feel I played some small part in his success. My friends, though, favored Gouaux’s sentiment, suggesting that this, too, was utter nonsense.

Figure 1. Me, being chased by my proposed structure of the glutamate receptor

The Tram!

Now one of Portland’s most recognizable landmarks, it’s hard to imagine a time when there was such a thing as a tramless OHSU. Gather around, young First Years, & I will tell you a harrowing tale of gridlock hill traffic (well, gridlockier hill traffic), & no Stumptown-brewing coffee shops on campus (gasp!). It was during my own first year that construction on Thing 1 & Thing 2 began. Since, in addition to studying here, I also live on the hill, life amongst the cranes, ‘dozers, & flaggers took some getting used to, “but”, I thought, “at least it’s only for a short time.” Six years later, enough construction has taken place throughout campus that none of the materials comprising the school that greeted me during my new student orientation will remain here when I graduate. But I digress. “The Tram! Eee! Quickly come and see the tram!” immediately became the municipal consensus, & I was all for it. I took the opportunity to introduce new tram-inspired words into the campus vernacular, but questions like “shall I meet you pre- or post-tram?” tended to be met with nothing but confused stares. I harbor no hard feelings, though—my first view of the evening Portland skyline while suspended 50-odd feet above the streets will be forever etched in my mind.



While studying Biochemistry at Oregon State University I remember watching a documentary on Brian Druker’s research, & the eventual development of Gleevec. Growing up in Oregon, I had always heard about OHSU, but this was the first time I can recall imagining the endless possibilities of a career in scientific research. And so, when it came time for me to decide where I would attend graduate school, the choice was obvious—I would attend OHSU. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted, and, because of it, my academic memory lane is full of such exciting times as these. Too full, in fact. Soon I’ll be out of space entirely, I think, & will need to expand off-site.

[1] Not to be confused with the Thomist Scholasticism.