What influences UW Medicine’s ‘most influential’ scientists?

13 who were recognized on global list discuss research pursuits, life experiences

By Brian Donohue  |  HSNewsBeat  |  Updated 2:30 PM, 06.24.2016

Posted in: Community

  • Genome scientist Judit Villen animatedly discusses the cascade of cell-based communication. Twisted Scholar

What events and circumstances open one's eyes to the marvel of science and experimentation?

For Deb Nickerson, it was digging into a soil test kit brought home by her dad, who owned a nursery. For Michael Gale, it was his teenage sister’s serious bout with hepatitis in the early 1970s, when the disease still frequently killed. For Evan Eichler, it was recognizing gene mutations as a teen, when he and his family bred rabbits in Canada.

These three are among the UW Medicine-affiliated scientists identified earlier this year as among the ‘most influential’ in the world. Thomson Reuters, the global information agency, identified more than 3,000 such researchers by dint of the volume of their work cited by others. 

Twisted Scholar
Brian Saelens discusses his study of childhood obesity for Seattle Children's Research Institute.
picture of Brian Saelens

Thirteen UW Medicine scientists on the list participated in on-camera interviews that lend insight to their own influences: families, pivotal experiences, mentors, opportunities. The interviews are edited into brief videos that give snapshots of their motivations in science and in life.

[Check out the ‘most influential scientists’ videos]

For instance, Theo Vos and Chris Murray, both of the global-focused Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, each were raised in families with multicultural, multi-ethnic interests: Murray’s parents did medical work in Africa, while Vos’ parents welcomed visitors from all over the world to their home in Holland, which later led him to work in Africa. 

There are excited explanations of breaking scientific ground, and reflections of career achievements. 

Allan Hoffman, a bioengineer who founded the UW’s bio-materials program in 1970 and made it one of the best in the world, hopes to be remembered as a “good teacher.” Bruce Psaty, an epidemiologist studying heart disease, suggested he’s “in the autumn” of his career, and savors the thought of passing the baton to “young investigators who have tremendous energy and enthusiasm.” 

Mohsen Naghavi, another IHME researcher, revels in his role of protecting public health. “I don’t think about retirement,” he said, smiling broadly, “because I love this job, and I hope that maybe I die in my office.”

[Editor's note: It was discovered after this story posted that William S. Noble, a UW Medicine genome scientist, was also named to Thomson Reuters' list of influential scientists – but because he was mistakenly listed under computer sciences and not as a medical researcher, HSNewsBeat missed acknowledging his achievement. We have added his name to our story and regret the omission.]

Tagged with: biomedical research, basic science research, awards
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