Derek Ash

JMCRS, Animal Care


Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, family and pets… anything goes! 

I grew up right here in down-east Maine, though I was raised by a family of North Carolina transplants, so things were both very Northern and Southern for me at the same time. I met my wife here at JAX, who saw this crazy guy with three great kids, and decided his mixed-up life was one she wanted to be a part of. We can’t currently have “real” pets so we have one very dramatic Beta fish named “Birdie” and more plants than we really should be allowed to have. 

What hobbies or interests do you enjoy in your free time?

Oof. I am a collector. My Interests fall into five main categories: Pokémon, Star Wars, Marvel Superheroes, Halloween (spooky season is the best, and horror films are my fave!), and Dungeons and Dragons. I’m a big kid at heart and I have more toys and games than most actual children do. I’m also an avid reader of both books and comic books. I’m not much of a video-gamer, but if it’s a Pokémon game, count me in! My favorite Pokemon is Snorlax! I love watching good movies, especially with my family. I’ve been known to write a little bit, but I don’t do nearly as much anymore as I used to.

Tell us about someone in your life who inspired you or helped you become who you are today.

I’ve had a bunch of great people who have helped me make my way in life. I thank my grandmother (I called her ‘Nanee’) for giving me the foundation I live my life on. I have a lot of good friends here at the Lab as well and I could very safely say that I would not be where I am now without them.

What motivates you or helps you feel fulfilled?

It probably sounds like SUCH a cliché, but I love helping people. If I didn’t work at JAX I would still love to be in a job where I could help people in some capacity. As it is, I am a trainer, and I get to see people come in off the street, often not knowing a single thing about what we do here. I get to be a big part of the journey to wherever their career leads them as a part of our team. I help them get past the stressful, scary stuff that comes with starting in a new place, especially in a job as important as working with live research tools.

What do you do really well? Is there anything you wish you could improve?

I like to think I’m a good listener, and that I am even better at responding to others in a meaningful way. I spent too many years of my life feeling like I wasn’t “good enough” for whatever was out there in the world. I learned that simply isn’t true, and that good things are out there for anyone who works hard and gets out of their own way! I try to help people see this as a part of their training here as well. At least, I hope that’s one of my accomplishments.

What’s an accomplishment you are really proud of? Is there something you want to do, but haven't done yet?

I think back to the year when the entire training team was recognized for their service to JAX during Employee Appreciation. I was very proud to stand up with the rest of our team and have our efforts recognized. As for haven’t done yet…? I am incredibly proud of the training program here at JAX. It is genuinely one of a kind and I want to go on helping to shape and perfect that program as it changes over the years.

How do explain your current work to others? What’s your favorite thing about it?

I’ve tried to just tell people “I’m a trainer” and I’ve been greeted too many times with “So do you train the mice? What do you train them to do?” and I have to clarify that I’m in the business of helping people. I help people learn how to do their jobs at JAX. I help them learn how to care for one of our most valuable commodities: the tools researchers use to help find cures to diseases. 

Anything else you'd like to share?

I am not a believer in astrology, but I am without a doubt a Libra through-and-through.