April 01, 2012

Ormond MacDougald, PhD: Scientist, bagpiper, Sinatra fan

Ormond MacDougald, PhD
What are you thinking about?

I think a lot about the formation and metabolism of fat cells, which is the main focus of my lab. I am also fairly involved in graduate education, including directing a seminar class for first and second year graduate students. At the moment my colleagues and I are gearing up for the influx of students coming into Ann Arbor for the summer undergraduate research program that I initiated a few years ago.

What are the practical implications for health care?

Although our research is basic and mechanistic in nature, we hope that the insights we provide into fat cell biology will ultimately provide tools to reduce the incidence of obesity and/or the associated health complications.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

One of the best parts of my profession is being surrounded by really smart and interesting people. Another bonus is the diversity of duties – there is always something new and interesting to provide a challenge and keep the daily grind from becoming a bore.

When you’re not working, what do you do?

I mostly spend time with my lovely wife and four children but I also like to work with wood and dabble in the garden. It’s difficult to find time at the moment for making music, but I play the bagpipes and the penny whistle. 

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’m pleased that we were able to contribute to our understanding of how endogenous Wnt signaling plays a key role in regulating stem cell fate towards fat cells and bone-forming cells. I definitely feel honored to be the inaugural John A. Faulkner Collegiate Professor of Physiology. However, what I’m probably most proud of is the success that my lab trainees have achieved.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading The Hare with Amber Eyes (Edmund de Waal) and I just finished Freedom (Jonathan Franzen). The books before that were Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri), The Omen Machine (Terry Goodkind), and The Great Wall (John Man).

Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner?

Somerled: the “founder” of the MacDougald clan; Otzi the Iceman: discovered in the Italian alps after ~5300 years of lying frozen in a glacier; and Frank Sinatra: he’d be my number one crooner to gather with around the piano after dinner and sing into the wee small hours.

What’s the most thrilling or adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

As part of a recent trip to China, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to explore Tibet.