The Irish Geneticist Behind the Mixing Board

By Jonathan Watts on September 17, 2007

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When you meet Media Services Director Trevor Murtagh, you can probably guess a few things about him. One is that he is skilled with electronic equipment: wherever there's a microphone, a video camera, a distance-learning television link, or a sound mixing board, Trevor is there. Another is that he's Irish: the huge red beard, blue eyes, freckles, slight accent, and interest in soccer all speak of the Emerald Isle. But unknown to many of his colleagues, Trevor Murtagh is a geneticist.

It's all part of the interesting story of Trevor's upbringing in Dublin, Ireland. Growing up as one of about 30 Adventists in a country that is 98% Roman Catholic, Trevor gained an unusual perspective on the world around him and on what it means to be an Adventist. "Even though we were a small church, we never felt outside of the church," he said. "Church officials and missionary types often stopped over in Dublin on their travels, so we felt like part of the world church." But usually, if the subject of religion came up, Trevor had to be able to explain doctrinal differences to people who did not know their Bibles. "You can't just take it for granted," he says. "You have to know why you believe the way you do. In many ways, it was easier to be an Adventist in Dublin than it is in Angwin."

Trevor attended Trinity College, Dublin. He says that the conviction and strength of mind which he learned by growing up as an Adventist aided him during his study of genetics, which is firmly grounded in evolutionary theory. When questioned about his creationism, Trevor would reply "It takes just as much faith to believe in evolution as to believe what I believe in." Trevor did well in his studies, earning a bachelor's degree with a moderatorship in 1974, and then conducting research on transplantation antigens in the Irish population. He became one of five people in Ireland who could do tissue typing for organ transplants, and earned a master's degree from Trinity College.

But Trevor's path soon led him in other directions. "The Lord saw fit to shut the door on my research," he said. He married his American wife, Sherrie, and embarked on an interesting career in the Napa Valley, directing St. Helena Hospital's smoking cessation program, becoming the hospital's plumber (when his position was eliminated as a result of Reagan's reforms), creating graphics and illustrations for Dr. John Hodgkin's research articles, and eventually working in PUC's Plant Services before applying for the job of media services director.

Is further research in Trevor's future? Apparently not. "I'm happy doing what I'm doing," he said. "I've got the coolest job on campus!"