Friday, June 5, 2015

The Minds Behind Jurassic World: pt. 2 Dr. Henry Wu & Claire Dearing

This week, my trusty, junior photographer and I were able to chitchat with Dr. Henry Wu and Martha Dearing, two of the people behind Jurassic World.
Disclaimer: We at Smiley's News claim no ownership to anything regarding Jurassic Park, Masrani Global Corporation, InGen or Jurassic World.

Last week, Simon Masrani was kind enough to spare some time to have an exclusive interview with me and give us some insight on the construction of the new theme park Jurassic World. This week, my trusty, junior photographer, Daniel P. Smithwater, and I had the opportunity to talk with two more brilliant minds behind the creation of Jurassic World: Dr. Henry Wu, a good friend of mine and the chief geneticist for both the new park and the original Jurassic Park, and Claire Dearing, the new park's operations manager.

Our first interview was with Dr. Wu, which is visible below:

Me: Daniel and I can't tell you how excited we are to be interviewing a great scientist sucha s yourself.

Dr. Wu: I enjoy these interviews. They excite me, Mr. Smiley.

Me: Of course, I know the answer to this question, but many of our readers might not, so what is a geneticist?

Dr. Wu: Basically, a geneticist is a scientist who studies genes – their inner workers and how they operate. After all, genes are the building blocks of life, so by learning as much as we can about them, we're learning a lot about ourselves.

Me: What role did you play in the original Jurassic Park?

Dr. Wu: As with Jurassic World, I was the chief geneticist. I am not responsible for inventing the technique of cloning dinosaurs – Hammond got the idea; I am also not responsible for laying the deepest foundation for the technique – Dr. Laura Sorkin, the park's former chief geneticist, hold that title. But what I did was give the idea life. I am responsible for bringing Hammond's idea of cloning dinosaurs from mosquito gut contents to reality by figuring out how to use the DNA of living animals – frogs, as was the case in the first park – to complete the otherwise fragmented genetic codes of extinct dinosaurs. Without a complete genetic code, the cloning of any animal is impossible.

Me: That's true. Now unlike what's in Michael Crichton novel, based on the events of the park, you escaped the island long before the dinosaurs got out and the place went haywire.

Dr. Wu: That would be correct.

Me: So were you involved with InGen any, if at all after the Incident of '93? I noticed you had nothing to do with the events of 1997 or 2001 on Isla Sorna.

Dr. Wu: That's right. I've always worked for InGen since they hired me. However, the time between 1993 and 2002 was when I made several revolutionary discoveries in my laboratory. But I'll get to those in a minute. Back to your original question, did you know that InGen conducted a clean-up operation on Isla Nublar long before the new park was built?

Me: Really? I actually didn't know that. When did that happen?

Dr. Wu: It happened in 1994. InGen's board of directors decided that we needed to analyze the damage on Nublar, so they recruited me and several others – including soldiers to keep us safe from the island's inhabitants and help us bring the island under control. During this mission, my main job was to catalog the animals on Isla Nublar and determine why they were breeding when we genetically-engineered them specifically not to breed.

Me: And what did you find out?

Dr. Wu: The reason they were breeding was because of the frog DNA we used in their creation. See, some species of West African frogs have the ability to change sex in a single-sexed environment. As the dinosaurs were originally all female, the frog DNA allowed many of them to change into males and breeding began to occur.

Me: That's pretty weird.

Dr. Wu: Yes, it's weird to us, but switching of the genders is not uncommon in nature. Clown fish, for example, are also capable of changing sex. It was the fact that we could combine the DNA of two different creatures to create a new creature really interested me.

Me: Wow. I actually never knew that. So, what are you doing now as chief geneticist at Jurassic World?

Dr. Wu: Actually, I recently finished a special living, biological attraction that I was assigned to create by Simon Masrani himself. It's a very amazing creature. When you have your interview with Claire Dearing later, I'm sure she'll want to elaborate with you more. After all, the project is now primarily in her department.

Me: I can't wait to talk with her then. What's next for you since you've finished your “special assignment”?

Dr. Wu: I'm going to explore the possibilities of genetic engineering. I really want to see just how far we can go with using DNA from two different creatures in one creature. Also, I want to increase our knowledge of how genetic material works. That's why I've recently started studying what's called “junk DNA”

Me: Junk DNA?

Dr. Wu: Yes. It was called junk DNA because scientists once thought it was just useless DNA that was left over from our evolutionary ancestors. But now, many scientists, including myself, have discovered that a lot of this “junk” DNA actually provides much use for whatever organism the DNA is from at least in some part of its life. It's actually very useful DNA. We suspect that learning more about “junk” DNA will help us learn more about certain diseases and how we can prevent them. In retrospect, I'd like to do everything I can to move InGen further into the bright future.

Me: You and your team sound incredible. How do you figure out all this stuff?

Dr. Wu: Wouldn't our competitors like to know.

(Dr. Wu and I laugh)

Me: That sounds awesome. I've got two more questions for you. What's your favorite dinosaur?

Dr. Wu: Wow, that's a tough one. I'd have to say Velociraptor is one of my favorites because many of their fossils have been excavated in the country I'm from: China.

Me: Nice. Before we go, do you have any hobbies and/or secret talents you'd like to share with us?

Dr. Wu: I actually have a real knack for playing Chinese checkers. I was the 3rd best in my family, after my uncle and my father. Now HE was the Chinese checkers champion.

Me: Well, again, thanks for taking the time to meet with us today, Dr. Wu.

Dr. Wu: No problem. This was fun.

Below is our interview with Claire Dearing.

Claire Dearing is Jurassic World's public assets manager.
Me: It's really nice to meet you, Ms. Dearing.

Claire: Thanks, but you can call me Claire.

Me: OK, then. So Claire, what do you do at Jurassic World?

Claire: I'm the park operations manager. It's my job to monitor the entire park and ensure everything is operating OK. I also have to make many of the important decisions that comes with running this park.

Me: I see. What makes Jurassic World different from Jurassic Park?

Claire: Well, first of all, JW certainly has a different feel than the first park. The first park was more like a safari adventure, in which tourists would have “explored” the island to “find” different species of dinosaurs. While the park would have featured several rides, like the jeep tour, and the Bone Shaker roller coaster and the river cruise, the dinosaurs were the primary attractions. The atmosphere of a biological preserve outweighed the feeling that you were also in a theme park. With Jurassic World, we wanted something a little different. In this park, while we will have tourists will feel like their on an adventure back in time, the park also includes many modern conveniences – the Hilton Isla Nublar Resort, Starbucks, the Aquatic Park, a state-of-the-art Innovation Center, Ben and Jerry's and even a Dairy Queen – to give visitors the impression they're in a theme park as well.

Me: So it's a biological reserve adventure park?

Claire, laughing: Yes, that's exactly it.

Me: What would you say is one of your top priorities at the park?

Claire: Making sure everyone has a good time. Visitors coming to the park need to be fed, entertained and protected. Thankfully, Vic Hoskins, head of InGen's security division takes care of making sure the park is safe. We also want to provide guests with an enjoyable and memorable experience. Creating that experience is largely my job.

Me: Now, Dr. Wu and Mr. Masrani spoke of a new upcoming attraction at the park? Care to tell us about it?

Claire: Ah, yes. The new attraction. We're very excited about it. As I'm sure you've heard from Dr. Wu, we have learned more in the past decade from genetics, than a century of digging up bones. A whole new frontier has opened up. The newest attraction to the park is an amazing new species of dinosaur.

Me: A new species of dinosaur?

Claire: Yes, it's a species that has never walked the earth before. It's our first, genetically-modified hybridized species.

Me: just went and made a new dinosaur?

Claire: Ha, ha. You sound just like Owen.

Me: Perhaps. What species of dinosaurs were used to create this hybrid? Does the hybrid have a name?

Claire: Yes. We're calling her Indominus rex, meaning “untameable king” in Latin. We used several different species, including four rather large carnivorous dinosaurs called Carnotaurus, Rugops, Majungasaurus and one of the largest carnivores ever to walk the earth: Giganotosaurus. Essentially, I. rex is meant to provide the public with just what they'd like to see – something bigger than T. rex, meaner and with more teeth.

Me: This hybrid sounds kind of cool! How did the other scientists respond to this initially?

Claire (is quoted for saying): Scientists are often challenged by the risks involved in executing grand concepts. Many at InGen doubted the likelihood of a successful hybrid, but here we are just one month away and she's more than we imagined. We will closely monitor visitor response and gauge the consumer's appetite for future experiences, taking Jurassic World into a new era.

Me: It seems like you have your work cut out for you. Do you have future plans already in place for the park, or are you going to wait and see how Indominus rex impresses the public first?

Claire: We have to plan far ahead for these types of things. As we seek to recreate the past, we can't forget to innovate. We have several new rides in the conceptual phase with Axis Boulder (Masrani Global Corporation's construction division). Out most evolved, the “Treetop Gazers”, has an ETA sometime in 2018.

Me: I'm really stoked about the new park. I'm almost done interviewing you. I have two more questions. What's your favorite dinosaur?

Claire: Definitely Indominus rex. I also have a thing for Apatosaurus, a species of long-necked sauropod native to Jurassic North America.

Me: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for meeting with us today.

Claire: This has been a blast. Who's your next interviewee.

Me: Well, next week as you know, Jurassic World will open to the public, so I'll be talking with Vic Hoskins, head of InGen security.

Claire: You'll have fun with him. Trust me.

Me: I'm sure we will.

Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographer: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan

Weekly Cartoons

Next Issue: The Minds Behind Jurassic World – pt. 3: Vic Hoskins & Owen Grady

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