‘To Good Genes,’ Indeed : Surprise Achievement Award, $5,500 Grant Cap Evening for Top UCI Researcher

Pamela Marin is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

“To good genes,” toasted John Wasmuth, Ph.D., as he lifted a glass of wine at dinner Tuesday in UC Irvine’s University Club.

Unbeknown to Wasmuth, a genetic researcher and professor of biochemistry, the highlight of the evening would be when he stepped up to the podium to accept the Research Associates’ annual achievement award--a Baccarat vase and $5,500 grant to further his work in molecular genetics. At the time of his toast, the good doctor was still in the dark.

The dinner was attended by about 70 of the county’s high profile set and marked the sixth year the Research Associates--a support group for the university’s College of Medicine--have honored a faculty member.

Among other accomplishments, this year’s honoree was part of an international research team that linked schizophrenia to a genetic aberration, and he also helped identify a genetic marker for Huntington’s chorea.


After an abbreviated cocktail hour (it was a school night, after all), guests took their seats in a book-lined study for dinner of spinach salad and filet mignon, followed by fruit cocktail served with a slide-show presentation of the rudiments of immunology.

The program was conducted by biochemist Gale Granger, whose infectious enthusiasm kept his audience as quiet as earnest undergrads.

Accepting his award from Mary Roosevelt, Wasmuth riffed with a few prominent guests--turning to Supervisor Tom Riley to ask about “this slope behind my house,” and to Henry Segerstrom for help with “my wife’s charge card at Nordstrom.”

A few laughs and a humble thank-you later, Wasmuth was back at his table, where staff member Signe Radovich whispered in his ear that $5,500 in unrestricted grant money would be deposited in his account. Beaming at the second surprise of the night, Wasmuth shook his head and said, “That’s the best thing I’ve heard tonight.”

In attendance were Research Associates directors Roosevelt, Renee Segerstrom, Floss Schumacher, Constance Morthland, Marilyn Nielsen, Jean Liechty, Ginny Frova and Michelle Rohe. Founder Athalie Clarke was unable to attend.