Q & A with Jaci Lett

Jaci Lett (left) and her niece Morgan on a recent trip to Nevada.

How long have you been at Washington University and what type of work do you do?

I started as a research technician at the Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) in 1985. CID at that time was an affiliate program of Washington University. We migrated with the CID group into the Department of Otolaryngology in 2003. I now serve as a senior research technician.

Early on I did general lab work, including lots of histology. In the early 1990’s I started to do more and more electron microscopy (EM). When our P30 research core center was funded by NIH, I adopted a larger role as an EM specialist.

What has been some of the most interesting work you’ve done?

As an EM specialist I’ve had the opportunity to look at lots of unusual things under the scanning and transmission electron microscopes. The core center did work for researchers and companies all over the country and occasionally Europe and the Middle East. I’ve examined all kinds of animal tissues from mice to horses, but also plants, powdered dairy products, and even beer can labels that changed colors when the beer was cold! Being able to observe things at the high magnifications offered by these scopes is a totally different world.

Is your current role different now that the research center has closed?

The past few years I’ve spent more time doing functional animal testing and auditory brainstem response (ABR) analysis for Kevin Ohlemiller, PhD. I’m also recently back to my histology roots doing some work for Mark Warchol, PhD.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Until recently I was heavily involved in a local Taiko group, St. Louis Osuwa Taiko. Taiko is historically a Japanese drumming art, but has evolved to include other instruments. I played the flute with them for 15 years. I now serve on their board of directors and only occasionally perform. I’m also an avid reader –mostly historical fiction –and I enjoy traveling, especially with my niece, Morgan. We’ve recently been to Puerto Rico and Miami.

I also volunteer with the USO at Lambert Airport, where I try to work at least one shift each month. We serve the servicemen and women, help them navigate the airport and town, get them fed and help with luggage checks. They are typically very young and from rural parts of Missouri and Illinois. Many have never been on a plane before. It feels good to give them a hand.