Menlo Park, California | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2003
Unlike J. Tso’s professional life, where his gaze locks intently on infinitesimally small test tubes and cells, hours outside the lab are filled by a man with an expansive view—an observer who appreciates what he sees “from the outside, looking in.”
A self-described shutterbug, Tso still uses the trusty Minolta that first launched his hobby as a high school student in Hong Kong. And although he’s comfortable with slightly more sophisticated equipment, Tso still depends on simple point-and-click cameras to photograph his favorite parts of the world—Italy, southern France, Guatemala, and California’s Yosemite National Park. “The natural lighting makes Yosemite look different every time,” he says. “I never get tired of it.” He’s also mesmerized by watching and photographing ocean tides and sunsets. “When you’re born near the sea, it becomes part of you, and you’re always drawn to it,” he explains.
When display space on his own walls approached capacity, Tso began sharing his photography with friends. One grateful recipient reciprocated with a collection of about 20 old cameras, including a Hasselblad, the same medium-format, all mechanical camera used by Apollo astronauts to photograph the moon. “I marvel at the workmanship of old cameras,” he says. “It’s truly amazing.”
This appreciative observer also is an avid fan of foreign movies, another deeply rooted hobby. As a high school student, Tso spent much of his free time at the nearby French cultural center, where he watched Japanese and French films. “It was the only place with air-conditioning,” he laughs.
“Movies and photography allow me to enhance experiences in my life without being directly involved,” he adds. “(What I see) can be joyful or sad . . . but it always enriches my life to see how other people live or deal with their lives.”
1981 Ph.D., Biochemistry
1981-1984 Post-doctoral fellow, Biochemistry, Cornell University
1984-1987 Stanford University, Genetics
Stanford University Cancer Biology Fellow
American Cancer Society Senior Post-doctoral Fellow
1987-1989 Staff Scientist, Protein Design Labs, Inc.
1989-2001 Senior Scientist, Protein Design Labs, Inc.
2001-present Director of Oncology, Protein Design Labs, Inc.
“At Purdue, I enjoyed the direct benefits of close interaction with my professors. I gained a very clear sense of professional direction from them.”