Leroy Hood: Discovery Science  pg. 3

Hood’s unique take on how technology supports biological discovery is not always well appreciated, especially in academic circles, says George Lake, a founding faculty member at the institute and astrophysicist who is applying his expertise to the study of biological networks and the role of retroviruses in evolution.

“If you’re a technologist at a university, that’s a tough position to be in,” Lake says. “There are very few people with the deep scientific insight that (Hood) has got who so embrace technology.”

Nature as teacher

Hood developed a deep connection to the natural world in his youth. Born in 1938 in Missoula, Montana, a town split by a rapidly flowing river and lying at the convergence of two forested mountain ranges, he began roaming the woods before the age of six, and camping by himself shortly thereafter.

Summers spent at his grandfather’s ranch in the Beartooth Mountains of southwestern Montana shaped his character and his destiny. Hood was the son his grandfather had never had, and from the man, Hood says, he learned “the power of love, commitment and friendship.” On the ranch he learned to ride horses, tend the animals, and climb the rugged mountains, further bolstering his confidence and independence.

Because his high school was small, Hood was able to explore a ragbag of activities, from music to acting to debate to sports. Football’s camaraderie and rough-and-tumble held particular appeal for him.

Another highlight was the chance meeting of Valerie Logan, the woman who would one day become his wife. They lived in neighboring towns, and met at a state speech, debate, and drama meet in the spring of their junior year. They would date, off-and-on, in a cross-country courtship that lasted seven years.

Navigating Montana’s rocky terrain as a child spawned in Hood an enduring love for mountaineering that has since carried him across countless peaks, including the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California (left) and the Swiss Alps (right).
Photos courtesy Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D.
Hood excelled in mathematics and science. During his junior and senior years, he took courses in his grandfather’s geology camp, a summer program attended by students and faculty members from a number of Ivy League universities, and was a field assistant for several geology mapping projects in the nearby mountains. One of these projects was the basis of his Westinghouse Science Talent award, the first ever from Montana.

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