February 2016: Steven Bullard

Steven Bullard, Research Specialist, has spent nearly 30 years in labs around this university, but that was not his original plan. Born and raised in Iowa, Mr. Bullard was preparing for a life after high school as a carpenter, building and remodeling homes. However, a mentor helped him factor into his decision the toll a career of physical labor could take. “I signed up for classes (at a community college) soon after that conversation,” he says. It was there that Mr. Bullard first got a taste for biochemistry, which became his major at Iowa State University.

After finishing his degree, Mr. Bullard interviewed with Dr. Robert Malone in the Department of Biological Sciences. At the interview he was given an exam on Molar solutions. “I did not do so well,” Mr. Bullard says, but he did ask for the answers near the end of the interview. “Years later, Bob told me (that) was what got me the job. None of the other candidates asked.” Mr. Bullard spent the next ten years in Dr. Malone’s lab, studying meiosis in yeast and cloning a human chromosome “during the early days of the Human Genome Project.”

It was there, Mr. Bullard says that he “learned to be an independent thinker and answer my own questions.” It was difficult at the time, but now, Mr. Bullard says, “I can’t thank (my post-doc) enough.” After that decade-long introduction to the rigors of research, Mr. Bullard took a position in the Department of Chemistry managing the undergraduate labs. But after four years, Mr. Bullard “missed the research atmosphere” and joined Dr. Andrew Lidral in the Dows Institute for Dental Research. For nine years, they made significant advances studying the genetic underpinnings of cleft lip and palate, “quite a jump from yeast or chemistry.”

Despite their success, funding for that project ran out, and Mr. Bullard was introduced to Dr. Chris Adams, Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism. Dr. Adams quickly recognized his value and offered him a position in his lab. Mr. Bullard says, “Chris is one of the best PI’s I have worked with. His work is leading the way in how we look at muscle atrophy and I am glad to be a part of his group.” For Dr. Adams, the feeling is mutual. “I’ve been extremely lucky to work with Steve for the past 5 years,” he says. “He is a wonderful person and one of the most gifted and dedicated scientists that I’ve ever seen.” Dr. Adams is not the only colleague willing to sing Mr. Bullard’s praises. Dr. Lina Maria Moreno Uribe, Assistant Professor of Orthodontics, says, “Steve is just so organized, methodic, and knowledgeable that even if he does not have the answer, under his guidance one can get closer to find the answer.” Peter Taft, Research Manager at the Pappajohn Biomedical Institute, agrees: “Steve has the combination of skills, common sense, and a collaborative nature that make him a great manager and researcher.”

Dr. Jeffrey Murray, Professor, Dows Institute of Dental Research, has lots to say: “I have never met anyone with a greater passion for science and for working out its intricacies with joy, commitment, and insight. He loves a challenge and loves finding a way to solve it. He is passionate about the mechanics of the science but also about how it can be applied to make people’s lives better. . . . He is a dog person and like a dog he will grab onto a technical problem that needs to be solved and worry it like a tasty bone until it’s gone and done, and then eagerly move on to the next bone. I hope he never runs out of bones and doubt that he will.”

When he is not in the lab, Mr. Bullard’s attention to detail and devotion to process travels with him. He applies it to his first love: carpentry. “After years of working with wood, it was hard to give up completely, so I took to building furniture.” He runs a side business called Ralston Creek Woodworks and crafts custom pieces for friends. He’s also president of the Eastern Iowa Hunting Retriever Association, an association dedicated to better training practices for Retrievers.

Please join us in thanking Steven Bullard for his many years of service to the University and to this Department. We are excited to see what he does next.

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