Centennial Story 12: Ximing Guo (MS, 1987; PhD, 1991)

I began graduate school at the School of Fisheries in 1985, after receiving a BS degree from Shandong College of Oceanography (now Ocean University of China). My decision to join UW was influenced by Lauren “Doc” Donaldson, whom I had the fortune to meet in Qingdao. Donaldson, a legendary fish geneticist who developed the famous “Donaldson Trout,” introduced UW to me and encouraged me to come. Dr. Donaldson would become a mentor and a friend who influenced me greatly. Donaldson and I worked together helping Professor Guochang Ge to introduce rainbow trout to China. His super Donaldson Trout should be thriving in many places in China, carrying his legacy and the legacy of UW Fisheries.

Ximing at UW in 1988

Bill Hershberger was my major professor for my MS and PhD. I studied triploidy in rainbow trout for my MS. Jim Myers (PhD, 1990), who was also one of Bill’s PhD students at the time, introduced me to polyploid induction. I was fascinated by the fact that fish can tolerate polyploidy so well. Bill was great in giving his students the freedom to explore. UW was a wonderland to me, coming from China where science in the 1980s was decades behind the west. I benefited greatly from the interdisciplinary training that included courses such as cell biology, developmental biology, molecular genetics, population genetics, and statistics taught by renowned professors from other departments. I also had the opportunity to work in Fred Utter’s lab at the National Marine Fisheries Service, learning about allozymes and their applications in population genetics.

For my PhD, I turned to oyster genetics with a focus on tetraploids. At that time, Stan Allen (PhD, 1987) and Sarah Downing (MS, 1987; PhD, 1993) were working on producing triploid oysters using chemical induction, a process that is complex and rarely totally effective, while Jim Myers produced tetraploid rainbow trout for triploid production. I spent four years testing different ways of making tetraploid oysters. I conducted most of the experiments in Coast Seafood’s hatchery in Quilcence, and I still remember the occasional joy of just getting on the last ferry back. Tetraploid embryos were readily produced, but none would develop normally. Looking at the embryonic cells with abnormally large tetraploid nuclei, it occurred to me that the eggs might not have enough cytoplasm to support the large tetraploid nuclei, and viable tetraploids might be developed using large eggs from triploids. After my PhD, I joined Stan’s lab at Rutgers University as a postdoc, and we tested my hypothesis, which was correct and led to the production of viable tetraploids. Tetraploid oysters would soon be commercialized for triploid production and had a major impact on oyster farming worldwide. Although tetraploid oysters were first produced at Rutgers, the idea of making viable tetraploids from triploids was conceived by me at UW.

My committee members included Ken Chew, Marsha Landolt, Aimee Bakken (Zoology), and Ralph Elston (Battelle). Ken gave me a strong sense of the importance of working closely with the industry. Aimee shared her insights in developmental biology, and Ralph’s research led to an interest in oyster diseases that continues today. Marsha’s qualifying exam for me was to write a grant proposal (on genetic toxicology of an oil spill) in five hours, a skill that I had to improve throughout my career

Ximing working in the lab at Rutgers

I moved to Rutgers University in 1992 as a postdoc, joined the faculty of Marine Sciences in 1995, and have been directing the shellfish genetics and breeding program at Rutgers since 1998. Rutgers has probably the longest oyster breeding program in the world. It developed disease-resistant diploid and triploid oysters for the oyster farming industry. I later ventured into genomics and co-directed the International Oyster Genome Project, trying to introduce genome-based approaches to oyster breeding. It has been a wonderful ride, and I owe much of it to my education at UW Fisheries. I have maintained some connections with SAFS faculty and former students through the years. It is great to see the global impact that SAFS has made and continues to make.

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