Zebrafish photos put researcher on cutting edge of science and photography

Oscar Ruiz’s home is decorated with many other 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.

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