Fall 2014 Newsletter | Biology | Marquette University




Dr. Stephen DownsDr. Stephen Downs received his undergraduate degree at Augustana College, a small private institution in Sioux Falls, SD (population 100K), where he majored in biology and chemistry.  He then moved to the University of Iowa in the smaller town of Iowa City, IA (population 45K), where he received his PhD degree in anatomy in the lab of Dr. Frank Longo, studying the role of prostaglandins in ovulation in mice.  Moving further east to Bar Harbor, ME (smaller population still at 3K), he spent five years in the lab of Dr. John Eppig at the Jackson Laboratory, carrying out postdoctoral work on the role of purine metabolism in mouse oocyte maturation.  This was a particularly memorable time in his life for several reasons: having grown up in suburban Minneapolis, it was a special treat to live a stone’s throw from the ocean and on the doorstep of Acadia National park; both of his children were born in this town’s small hospital; and he was the first postdoc to train in the lab of one who would become perhaps the best known oocyte physiologist in the world. 

Dr. Stephen Downs


Having lived in smaller communities for most of his adult education, Dr. Downs sought similar environs when looking for “real” employment.  Marquette University and Milwaukee fit the bill nicely—small enough not to be overwhelming, yet large enough to provide ample amenities, and much closer to family members and friends.  At Marquette he continued his work with purines and, as the years progressed, this morphed into interconnected pathways of energy metabolism, first involving carbohydrates and more recently fatty acids.  Along the way, he carved a small research niche for himself in how energy metabolism helps regulate meiotic maturation in mammalian oocytes and has thoroughly enjoyed the journey.  It has been a privilege for him to mentor seven graduate students to their PhD (Funsho Fagbohun ‘91, Mary Dienhart ‘96, Shannon Colton ‘02, Jing Chen ‘07, Cean LaRosa ‘06, Ru Ya ‘13, Deepa Valsangkar ‘14) and provide research experiences in his lab for countless undergraduates.


Downs Hiking

Dr. Downs Hiking along the Virgin River in Zion National Park

Some of Dr. Downs’ fondest experiences have been with collaborators.  The most significant were during the summers of ’94 and ’95 that were spent in York, England in the laboratory of Dr. Henry Leese, one of the world’s foremost authorities on both egg and embryo energy metabolism.  Not only were data obtained that greatly advanced the understanding of mouse oocyte physiology, but exceptional cultural experiences were the norm, most notably Dr. Downs’ extensive travel in England, Wales and Scotland pursuing a new-found love of castles.


Upon his arrival at Marquette, Dr. Downs re-opened the undergraduate developmental lab course that had lain fallow for many years.  This was a challenging undertaking that required him to learn many new developmental systems that could be adapted to a laboratory setting.  After five years, he shifted his undergraduate teaching responsibilities to the department’s large introductory laboratory course, where he remains to this day.  Dr. Downs has enjoyed teaching in a laboratory setting since it offers increased interaction with students.  Because of this, he developed an additional undergraduate lab course in anatomy that was taught for the first time in the spring, 2011 semester, one that finally afforded him the opportunity to apply his love of anatomy that had been simmering since graduate school.


Downs Hiking

Dr. Downs on Angel's Hike in Zion National Park

Outside of science, Dr. Downs has many interests.  First and foremost is the importance of family and friends, and he tries to maximize time spent with them.  He is especially

excited about his two granddaughters, ages 1 and 3, although he agonizes about their being so far away in Arizona.   He has always loved dogs, and his family has done exceptionally well in spoiling an 8-year-old vizsla.  Dr. Downs has a love of music and has written many songs, usually of a sacred nature, that he sometimes performs with his brother.  He also plays trombone and for many years has been a member of the Wauwatosa Community Band and the Wauwatosa Community Jazz Band.  He has been working on a novel for several years that he hopes to finish before he lands in that other place.  And finally, given half the chance, Dr. Downs will wax poetic about spectacular places to visit in the US, especially the national parks, most notably those out west.  He has a serious addiction to hiking, and the more spectacular the backdrop, the better.  Hiking and long walks are rapidly supplanting participation in his favorite sport, basketball, for reasons that are obvious to those he competes with.


Downs and Dog

Dr. Downs and his dog jumping in excitement









Biological Sciences Department

Marquette University, Wehr Life Sciences
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Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
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