When Oscar Ruiz, Ph.D., entered the 2016 Nikon Small World photomicrography contest, he won both the grand prize and international recognition. The winning image – a zebrafish embryo he took while researching epithelial tissues – 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.
Ruiz, a senior scientist in Genetics, is on the cutting edge of both science and photography.
Most researchers working with zebrafish only study the skin cells on their tails, but in the lab of George Eisenhoffer, Ph.D., assistant professor of Genetics, 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 doors for new research collaborations.
In addition to the study of cancer cell development, Eisenhoffer’s lab is working with scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at 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.