Julia Richards, PhD

I grew up in Seattle and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology at the University of Washington in 1971. After working as a technician at Cal Tech and then in Genetics at the University of Washington, I went to graduate school in genetics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Working with my thesis mentor, Frederick Blattner, PhD, and our collaborator, Oliver Smithies, PhD, it was an incredibly exciting time when we were involved in cloning some of the first single-copy mouse and human genes. I received my PhD in genetics in 1983, and then went on to do postdoctoral training with Patricia Jones, PhD, at Stanford University, studying the mouse invariant chain gene. When my husband took at faculty position in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, I continued my postdoctoral training in the lab of Francis Collins, MD, PhD, who at the time was a young assistant professor and now is director of the National Institutes of Health. While working with him on the genetics of Huntington Disease, I learned strategies for finding genes that cause inherited human diseases. While continuing to work on Huntington Disease, in the late 1980s, I met a new faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Michigan's Kellogg Eye Center, Paul Sieving, MD, PhD, who is now the director of the National Eye Institute. In 1988, he told me that the next big area of research in vision science was going to be ophthalmic genetics and that I should seriously consider making it my career. Thus I joined the faculty of the Kellogg Eye Center and took up doing ophthalmic genetics as the focus of my career. And much of my path along the way was shaped by interactions with some really amazing people, the mentors I studied with and the collaborators I have had.