College Honored Alumni - Val C. Sheffield, Ph.D., M.D.

If you have ever gotten more questions wrong on a test than you got right, you are in good company—Dr. Val C. Sheffield, the College of Life Sciences’ honored alumnus, has been there too. “I remember I once got 29 points out of 100 on an exam, and it was the second highest grade in the class,” Sheffield recalled of his BYU undergraduate experience. “Some of the professors were really tough, but they challenged you to learn.”

Sheffield went on to graduate with a B.S. in zoology and an M.S. in developmental biology at BYU. He earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in developmental biology from the University of Chicago. Dr. Sheffield is currently an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Professor
"I was introduced to scientific research and was greatly influenced in my career choice by outstanding teachers."
of Pediatrics at the University of Iowa College of Medicine as well as Director of the Division of Medical Genetics at the University. His laboratory—one of the top in the world—identifies genes that are involved in human genetic diseases. Dr. Sheffield has authored or coauthored over 250 peer reviewed scientific papers in highly respected journals. While an undergraduate at BYU, Sheffield said he learned that faith and science “are not only compatible, but also synergistic.” He con- tinued, “I was introduced to scientific research and was greatly influenced in my career choice by outstanding teachers.”

One such teacher was Robert Seegmiller, a PDBio profes- sor with whom Sheffield engaged in a research project on the genetic causes of improper limb development. This passion for research continues today. “The broad goal of my laboratory is to understand what leads to inherited diseases,” Sheffield said. “We work specifically on hereditary blindness, particularly forms of blindness where initially there is normal vision, but then the retina of the eye degenerates.” “I hope to impact lives for the better,” said Sheffield. “I help train students at all levels, from under- grads to medical fellows. I hope they go on and have careers that contribute to scientific knowledge to benefit mankind. That’s the good thing about being in academic medicine; it goes on after you.”

by Alex Aggen