People Research

Q&A with Staff Scientist Grady Phillips

Marilyn and Grady Phillips take a camel ride through the Sahara Desert, Morocco in May 2019.
Grady undertakes a sushi making class at a local fish market in Tokyo in 2013.

What is your title and role in the Department of Otolaryngology?

My title is staff scientist, and I specialize in electron microscopy imaging. I worked at WashU for 30 years before moving over to SLU for a few years. Now I’m back. My earlier work here was at the Cancer Research Center, working on viruses, including some of the earliest work on HIV. After that, I worked for [Professor of Neuroscience] Paul Bridgman for 21 years, investigating the factors that influence neuronal migration. It’s good to be back now, and working with [Otolaryngology faculty member] Dr. Gratton.

How did your interest in research develop, and what does that path look like now as you prepare to retire?

An interest in science was an obvious path for me. My father was a doctor and my mother was an x-ray technician and science teacher. I used to help her developing x-ray films. My parents let me have a chemistry lab in the basement where I collected glass jars of preserved specimens. My high school hobby was trying to make rocket fuel. I had all sorts of pets as well – alligators, a monkey, bats, and various insects.

The Phillips family enjoys a white water rafting adventure in Tennessee in 2005.

It was no surprise I ended up at Baylor University to study biology.

What have you liked best about your work here?

I enjoy the peace and quiet of sitting alone at the electron microscope, scanning tissues and taking pictures of things that no one has seen before. There is a sense of exploration and accomplishment all at the same time.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Grady, wife Marilyn, and daughter Liz visit the Pompeii ruins in Italy in 2018.

I am a true cinephile and a world traveler. Seriously, I watch a movie at least every other day. Sometimes I go stretches where I’ll watch a movie every day. No particular genre – I tend to like everything, from old classics to indie movies. Some are pretty awful.

I also love to travel. We’ve been to many, many places outside the US – Morocco, Japan, several places in Europe, and Africa. We visited Tanzania on safari to observe the Great Migration. We have plans to visit Egypt as soon as the pandemic is over, and to visit our son Bill who is in the reserves and stationed in Germany.

What is one thing about you that would surprise your colleagues?

Grady takes in the view from a Land Cruiser while on safari in Tanzania.

As a teenager, I worked as a gandy dancer [Editor’s note: google that to learn more]. We worked on local railroad lines, repairing switches, straightening track and replacing ties. It was very physical work, so I got in great shape and ate six meals a day.

What are your plans for retirement?

May 31 is my official retirement date. I do plan to keep as busy as possible – teaching again at the junior college level, helping with the Boy Scouts, and volunteering at our local food pantry. And, watching more movies, of course.