From Naturalist to Genomics Researcher, Rick McLaughlin Asks Big Questions
Rick McLaughlin, PhD spent his childhood observing nature. “Even though I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, I had collections of insects and rocks,” he says. “When we visited family in rural areas, I spent my time exploring at the creek.” As an adult, he turned that love of nature into an exciting research career at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute (PNRI).
A Naturalist at Heart
In college, Rick earned his undergraduate degree describing the biodiversity of a new park. “I’m a naturalist at heart,” he says. “Observing the way nature has adapted to environmental conditions sparked my interest in evolution. From there, I became fascinated by coevolution — when organisms evolve together in response to each other.”
Today, Rick’s scientific research includes coevolution, the human immune system, transposable elements, and adaptability, but it all rolls up to one big, central question: How do you build living things?
“It’s a big question, I know, but one of the reasons I came to PNRI is because researchers here are excited by the big questions,” Rick says. “By working together, talking, exchanging ideas, and exploring concepts together, we develop new perspectives and new ways of approaching our studies. And much like coevolution happens in nature, our science and ideas evolve and excel in response to the environment of the institute.”