<figcaption> Credit: © Lincoln Barbour PHOTOGRAPHY</figcaption>
Credit: © Lincoln Barbour PHOTOGRAPHY

Though it's been decades since he was a kid turning over rocks in St. Joseph, Missouri, Dee Denver, now assistant professor in the zoology department at Oregon State University, still enjoys looking at nematodes. "It's beautiful," he says, watching through a microscope in his laboratory as a tiny worm makes sinusoidal tracks through a plate of Escherichia coli. It's no coincidence that the animals that intrigue him have also allowed him to make dogma-shaking observations in evolutionary biology.

As an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Denver realized he could combine two of his interests - his childhood fascination with invertebrates and research he did in a cancer lab on mutation. In 1997, at the start of graduate school, Denver moved west to pick up a project in Kelley Thomas's lab at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, that colleagues had been working...

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