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Marjorie Patrick
Professor of biology takes her work around the world

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Professor Marjorie Patrick, PhD has traveled from the Tibetan Plateau of western China to the Brazilian Amazon to pursue her scientific interests. The comparative animal physiologist's career allows her to research all over the world, but when it's time to teach, she prefers the small, intimate classes at USD.

Marjorie Patrick

"One of the biggest perks in my research field is the opportunity to do research in different parts of the world. Although the research has been productive and fascinating on these trips, it's being given the opportunity to work in foreign locales and experiencing the nature, people and culture that I value most."

Marjorie Patrick

What inspired you to become a professor?

I believe that there have been several biology teachers and professors who have inspired me to pursue a profession that allows one to be both a teacher and a researcher. Since high school, I have loved biology, especially physiology. My high school was fortunate enough to have amazing biology teachers who were eager to teach advanced classes in different fields of biology. My interest continued to grow during my undergraduate studies when I engaged in research in a comparative physiology laboratory. I knew at that point that I wanted to pursue research as a career, however, it was my undergraduate and master's research mentor, who has such a passion for research and teaching, who encouraged me become a professor. It's the best career in the world, well, except for all the grading that comes with it!

Marjorie Patrick

"I believe the key element that makes USD special is the small class size. With a smaller group, there's opportunity to create a more active learning environment in a more informal setting."

Marjorie Patrick

What is your favorite course to teach? Why?

I love all of the classes I teach for different reasons, so I don't have a favorite. I teach two introductory biology classes. I enjoy teaching the Bio 190 Preceptorial, as I hope to relay my enthusiasm for biology to incoming freshmen and hopefully relay the significance of evolutionary theory as the seam that runs through all areas of biology. I love teaching Bio 225, Introduction to Cellular Processes, as I have an affinity to explaining how all the "nuts and bolts" of a cell work together to allow and sustain life. I do have a fondness for my upper division Invertebrate Physiology class (Bio 477) as I developed both the lecture and laboratory portions, and this is my area of research. Plus invertebrates, especially insects, are physiological wonders. In all of my classes, I have many "geeking out" moments, when I get quite animated describing some point. It is how I relay the significance of that point and how I find it fascinating.

What do you hope students take away from your classes?

First and foremost that they truly comprehend the concepts covered and recognize that they will revisit these in all of their other biology classes. Also, I hope that they gain an appreciation for the complexity and beauty of living organisms.

Marjorie Patrick

"I hope that [my students] gain an appreciation for the complexity and beauty of living organisms."

Marjorie Patrick

Please tell us a little about your research.

I'm a comparative animal physiologist, which means I study different types of animals and compare their functions under similar or different environments. I'm interested in how aquatic animals regulate body fluid salt levels when living in environments that challenge that ability. My biggest fascination is with mosquito larvae, as they can reside in such extreme water chemistries. Since my PhD, I've been focusing on describing the two physiological strategies that have evolved in mosquitoes that allow the larval form to reside in very high salinities. During my post-doctoral research, I began employing a sophisticated form of microscopy, called confocal microscopy, that allows me to visually localize ion transport proteins in larval organs. I tag these transporter proteins with fluorescent labels and the confocal microscope generates high-resolution 3-dimensional images of these tags in mosquito larval tissue. This aspect of my research not only has revealed some novel physiological adaptations in these insects, but has also generated some visually stunning images. Who says you cannot find art in science?

Click here for a video of Dr. Patrick describing her research, and to see some confocal images.

I understand you've traveled a great deal. Where have you gone? Do you have any memories to share?

One of the biggest perks in my research field is the opportunity to do research in different parts of the world. Although the research has been productive and fascinating on these trips, it's being given the opportunity to work in foreign locales and experiencing the nature, people and culture that I value most.

Marjorie Patrick

"I have traveled throughout the big country of Brazil and have fallen in love with it completely. I hope to return many times and perhaps live in Brazil at some point. "

Marjorie Patrick

Canada

As an undergraduate, I was part of a research group that traveled to Polar Bear Provincial Park on the Hudson Bay coastal region of Canada to study the blot clotting function of a resident population of brook trout. In order to study the fish, we needed to catch them. This meant weeks of camping and fishing, sampling and eating fish, all in a spectacular setting but with the continuous concern of polar bears! Luckily, we only spotted bears as we were flying into the region.

China

I have also done research on the Tibetan plateau region of western China. In the Qinghai province is China's largest freshwater lake, Qinghai Hu. This vast lake is at high altitude, which means lower oxygen levels and temperature, and recently the lake has become saltier than freshwater due to reduced freshwater input. For its resident carp, a strictly freshwater fish, all of these factors are challenges to its physiology. Our research group spent a few weeks at Qinghai Lake performing some basic research on this fish. There were so many moments when I was awestruck at how remote and exotic our research locale was—to see Tibetan monks speeding by on motorcycles, the indigenous people of that region, the food, the landscape is still vivid in my mind.

Brazil

I have spent a great deal of time in the Brazilian Amazon region doing research on both fish and mosquitoes. I have a long-standing collaborative relationship with physiologists at INPA (National Institute for Amazonian Research, in English) in Manaus, Brazil. There, I have been fortunate enough to study some of the most amazing tropical fish and mosquitoes. On two trips, we were based on the INPA research vessel up the Rio Negro, a major black water tributary of the Amazon River system. There were so many incredible moments on the river—seeing the river dolphins swimming by, using our flashlights to search for the eyes of caimans (related to crocodiles) along the shores at night, hearing howler monkeys becoming active at night, looking up at the stars of the southern hemisphere while gliding along the river at night. I have traveled throughout the big country of Brazil and have fallen in love with it completely. I hope to return many times and perhaps live in Brazil at some point.

What makes USD special, in your opinion?

I believe the key element that makes USD special is the small class size. With a smaller group, there's opportunity to create a more active learning environment in a more informal setting. This allows students to feel more comfortable engaging in discussions in a group setting and also when conversing with their professors. I value the connections I make with students.

- Anne Malinoski '11

Interview with Marjorie Patrick

Quick Facts

  • I was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. Yes, I have played ice hockey and curling and also I love snowshoeing and tobogganing.
  • In high school, I competed in the Ontario Provincial tournaments for both volleyball and cross-country running.
  • My addiction is long distance running. I have run four marathons in two years. I qualified and ran the Boston Marathon last year. This spring, I'm returning to Boston, then running the Big Sur Marathon 13 days later.
  • I love cooking and finding great undiscovered restaurants. Thanks to my running, I can eat anything I want.
  • Certain words give away my Canadian accent: doubt, about, trout. But I don't say "eh."
  • I do own a mosquito puppet, but have yet to use it in a lecture.

Useful Links

home.sandiego.edu/~mpatrick/index.html

www.sandiego.edu/cas/biology/

www.sandiego.edu/cas/biology/faculty/
biography.php?ID=51