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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Sketch Amid Shutdown

Research Champion Immortalized

 Artist's black and white rendering of Romero with mouse on shoulder

Livia’s portrait of mouse technician Darwin Romero

Dr. Charles Venditti’s NHGRI lab includes a translational research program that conducts natural history studies on rare metabolic disorders. A large part of their work involves breeding and treating very sick—and very valuable—mice. It’s a vital research component that is difficult to halt mid-stream—even when a pandemic unexpectedly comes calling. Fortunately, devoted animal caretakers like Darwin Romero, a Kelly contractor to NHGRI and Venditti lab mouse technician, rose to the occasion. 

“Our mouse technician has just been an absolute hero for our research program,” Venditti said. “He’s in there saving our precious mice, even on weekends. Helping us with our critical gene therapy experiments. Acting as a missionary for our scientists to help them try to keep the science going remotely. It’s been amazing to see people step up and we’ve made real progress, despite the covid crisis, because of his efforts.”

Teen girl with her father smiling into camera

Dr. Charles Venditti and his daughter, artist Livia, age 14

So impressed with Romero’s work ethic was Venditti that his enthusiastic praise while teleworking inspired his youngest daughter, Livia, an artist, to render a portrait of the tech. The scientist plans to present the portrait to the aptly named science technician Darwin soon.

“Without the tireless efforts of our animal caretakers/vets and especially mouse technicians—like Darwin in this time of crisis—our precious animal disease models, and eventually the patients they help, would have been utterly decimated,” Venditti concluded.

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