Oscar Ruiz’s home is decorated with many photos he’s taken, from architectural shots and scenes he’s encountered during his travels to images from everyday life, especially during his postdoctoral fellowship in Portugal.
So, he isn’t just talking about the photos of zebrafish embryos he takes while researching epithelial tissues when he says, “I take pictures all the time.”
But its his zebrafish embryos photos for which the MD Anderson senior research scientist has become known. Ruiz’s entry into 2016’s Nikon Small World photomicrography contest won him the grand prize and international recognition. The winning image also was chosen as the November 2016 cover of Nature Methods, and a second photo won the 2016 BioArt competition, hosted by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
Opening the doors to new research collaborations
Within the lab of George Eisenhoffer, Ph.D., assistant professor in Genetics, Ruiz is on the cutting edge of both science and photography. Most researchers working with zebrafish only study the skin cells on their tails. But Ruiz developed a novel means of stabilizing the zebrafish embryos using a clear agar gel that allows researchers to see the development of epithelial cells on the head and face.
This new angle for photography has opened up doors for new research collaborations. In addition to the study of cancer cell development, Eisenhoffer’s lab is working with scientists at UT Health Science Center - Houston to learn more about the development of facial deformities such as cleft lip.
“I love science and learning new things, and photography and images really speak to me,” Ruiz says. “It’s great to be able to combine the things I love at work.”
A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson’s quarterly publication for employees, volunteers, retirees and their families.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.