The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Frank Moore Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

April 11, 2017


Frank Ludwig Moore was born in 1945 in Fremont, Ohio, where he grew up. His childhood was spent exploring rivers and fishing, as well as bringing home creatures for his at-home aquaria, experiences that later contributed to his becoming a biologist. Upon graduating from high school, Moore attended the College of Wooster from 1963 to 1967 on a basketball scholarship, majoring in experimental psychology. While at Wooster, Moore met a fellow student, Kathleen Dean, who would later become his wife. Thinking ahead to the possibilities of a future professorship, Moore explored ways to qualify his skills in instruction, adding a teaching certificate during his junior year along with a minor in Biology. Upon the completion of his Wooster studies, Moore was hired to teach junior high biology classes in Lakewood, Ohio, where he remained until he and his wife moved to Colorado.

Once arrived in Colorado, Moore taught the biological sciences at a public middle school while also taking biology classes during the summer in order to satisfy the prerequisites for the University of Colorado's Ph.D. program in Biology. Moore's doctoral training, which began in 1971, combined physiology, endocrinology, and animal behavior, and it was in this time period that he shifted focus from experimental psychology to the study of animal behavior in nature. His particular research focus was on spermatogenesis in salamanders, looking into how hormones control the development of mature sperm in the testes as well as what hormones impact the transition from one developmental stage to the next.

In 1975, one year after completing his doctorate, Moore accepted a position at Oregon State University, which had offered him a three-year teaching contract in the General Science Department. Hired at a time when post-doctoral fellowships were not widely available due to dramatic cuts in federal funding for science, Moore was able to use his teaching appointment to also conduct research and publish scientific papers, all the while using borrowed lab space. As a result of his scholarly productivity, Moore was offered a tenure-track position with the OSU Zoology Department beginning in 1979.

During his time in Zoology (1979-2007), Moore made significant contributions to his field including, in 1981, the discovery of vasotocin, an oxytocin-like hormone that was responsible for the rough-skinned newt's (a local species of salamander) gripping behavior during courtship. Because the action of the vasotocin hormone was localized in the brain of the salamander, Moore became interested in studying neurological systems. These increasing interests in using molecular approaches to understanding hormones and behavior resulted in his becoming associated with OSU's Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology in 1990.

Moore's discovery of vasotocin opened up a new research field that focused on hormones and the use of animal models to better understand human development. As one outgrowth of this line of inquiry, Moore discovered the origination of cells that produced a particular hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GNRH) that control reproduction. Significantly, by showing that these cells that manage reproduction originate in the olfactory placode during the early stages of embryonic development, Moore's laboratory helped to explain a human congenital syndrome where those born without the ability to smell are also found to be infertile. Another heavily cited article, "A Corticosteroid Receptor in Neuronal Membranes" (1991), displaced existing explanatory models for how steroid hormones worked. It also resulted in the discovery of a fast-acting neurotransmitter in salamander brains that is still not fully understood.

In 1996, Moore was named an OSU Distinguished Professor, the highest award that the university bestows upon a member of its faculty. He retired from OSU in 2007.