Matthew K. Waldor grew up in the suburbs of Newark, New Jersey, the middle of three children. Waldor's father spent much time in the American military—in active and reserve duty, eventually retiring at the rank of major general—though mostly worked at an insurance agency he founded; his mother was a homemaker. Waldor spent much of his youth interested in and committed to learning, as well as partaking in the normal activities of childhood: reading, piano lessons, and playing in the woods near his home. His early interests were in the arts and humanities, though he was not entirely certain about his career path. He attended Yale University and spent several years intensively committed to his schoolwork before deciding to take a semester off to travel to Spain, where he taught English and planned to write a novel (though never did). He returned to Yale, majoring in philosophy and biology, and decided to pursue medicine for his profession. Before starting at Stanford University Medical School, Waldor had what he considered his first real research experience at Woods Hole Science Center working on neural systems in the leech nervous system. His interest in scientific research piqued, Waldor sought out research while in medical school and ended up in Larry Steinman's laboratory studying autoimmunity in the nervous system, specifically developing mouse models. Although he was accepted to Stanford's MD/PhD program, Waldor declined and continued to conduct research, and then obtain his PhD independently, while at Stanford; he also had the fortune to learn how to think about and do science from Leonore A. Herzenberg. After becoming interested in infectious diseases during a class of Stanley Falkow's at Stanford and after his residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, Waldor began a clinical fellowship in infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and then a postdoctoral fellowship in John J. Mekalanos's laboratory at Harvard Medical School, researching a new strain of epidemic cholera. From there he accepted a position at Tufts University, conducting research in microbial genetics and infectious diseases studying phage replication, regulation, and antibiotic resistance. Near the end of the interview Waldor discusses the requirements of scientific practice and the ways in which he balances his career with his family life; his professional goals; his process for writing journal articles; and a typical workday. The interview ends with reflections on the privatization of scientific research; gender and ethnic issues in science; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant in his laboratory.
Lili Yamasaki grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan, the second youngest of six siblings. Yamasaki's father was a physician and her mother a nurse, until she began raising her children. Yamasaki had an early interest in art and in writing, which she believes leads to creativity in science. She excelled in school, developing a proficiency in and curiosity about science, though she had a very well-rounded education and several influential teachers. Like all of her siblings, Yamasaki entered the University of Michigan to pursue her undergraduate degree, committed to her early interest in chemistry but still diversifying her education with classes in the humanities. During summers she worked or interned in various labs focused on chemistry—at the Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, with Donald Huppi at Michigan, and at Gelman Instrument Company. While working at the University of Michigan for a year after graduation, for personal and professional reasons Yamaski decided to apply to positions on the West Coast, ultimately doing enzymology research in the department of psychiatry at Stanford University with Donna L. Wong and Roland D. Ciaranello. Wanting to return to school to obtain a doctoral degree, she applied to a number of graduate programs, ultimately accepting an offer from the University of Texas Health Science Center, where she worked in Robert E. Lanford's laboratory on receptor specificity in nuclear transport. From there she moved on to postdoctoral research on retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein in mice at Massachusetts General Hospital, with Edward Harlow, Nicolas Dyson, and Tyler Jacks as her mentors. Yamasaki took a position at Columbia University at the end of her postdoctoral research looking at the regulation of growth and development by suppressors and activators. Throughout the interview she comments upon her role in the laboratory over time, her and her mentors' process of writing journal articles as well as laboratory management styles; and her daughter and balancing family and career. The interview ends with a discussion of patents; the privatization of research; gender issues in science; and the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant.
John Sondek grew up in Lewiston, New York, the fourth of five children. His father owned a grocery store, and his mother was a homemaker. Sondek worked hard on his schoolwork and liked all kinds of classes. He particularly remembers his chemistry and biology teachers as being enthusiastic and good. He took his first biochemistry class in high school and became fascinated with DNA manipulation. He also played football in high school.
Sondek's first research experience occurred during college at the University of Rochester, where he worked for Michael Hampsey in Fred Sherman's lab. Becoming more interested in biochemistry, he decided to pursue science as a career, and spent some time in the interview reflecting on the Sherman laboratory and Sondek's own early research experience.
He attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, where he rotated into David Shortle's laboratory to work on protein folding. Wanting to work on heterotrimeric proteins, Sondek accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with Paul Sigler at Yale University. He found that Shortle and Sigler had different mentoring styles, both of which influenced his own style of working with students in lab.
After his postdoc, Sondek accepted a position at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He continued his current research in signal transduction systems controlled by heterotrimeric G protein and he collaborated with T. Kendall Harden. During his time at Chapel Hill, Sondek received the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant, which had a large influence on his work.
As the interview concludes, Sondek gives his views on his obligation to provide service to his professional community and to promote the national science agenda. He goes into greater detail about his current research in the structural biology of signal transduction; the wider context of his work; and practical applications of his research. He describes what he likes best about being a principal investigator; the qualities of a good scientist; and the process of writing journal articles. He answers the interviewer's questions about the issue of patents, his in particular; gender issues in science; science and religion; politics and science; the role of the scientist in educating the public about science; and ethical questions in science. The interview ends with a discussion of Sondek's leisure activities; his professional and personal goals; and the difficulty of balancing family life and work life.
Wilma M. Wasco was raised in Fairfield, Connecticut—a town about forty-five minutes away from New York City—the oldest of three siblings. Her father was a lawyer and had a profound love of jazz music, also, later in life, he suffered from multiple sclerosis; her mother worked for a telephone company until her children were born and then, when older, pursued an interest in her own artistic expression. Wasco loved to read and play as a child, and for a time took music lessons from a jazz-artist who was a friend of her father. Her family was close-knit: they often took day trips together around the state. After some time in parochial school, Wasco entered the public system for junior high and high schools. She first became interested in science in the eighth grade due to a teacher, Mr. Somaski, but she was still uncertain of what career she wanted to pursue. She chose to attend the University of Connecticut for her undergraduate degree. Due to registration difficulties she was unable to enroll in science classes until her sophomore year, at which point she took an honors chemistry course, interesting her in science; she chose her major (biology) in her junior year, and only then began taking biology courses. While still an undergraduate she worked for Guillermo Fallar, a neuroscientist, and Ian McClellan, biochemist, in a neurobiology laboratory and she decided to go to graduate school. She wanted to study molecular pharmacology and she applied to and was accepted at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. While there she conducted her thesis research with George A. Orr, with whom she published her first paper, on calmodulin. From New York she moved on to a postdoctoral position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working with Frank Solomon on microtubular-associated proteins, specifically identifying and characterizing amyloid precursor-like protein 1 (APLP1); during her studies she received a National Research Service Award. She then became a Research Fellow in the neurology department at Harvard University and held a joint position with Massachusetts General Hospital, at which time she was working with Rudolph E. Tanzi (Pew Scholar Class of 1993) on cloning amyloid precursor-like protein 1 (APLP1). Wasco remained at Harvard University, becoming an assistant professor researching neuronal cell death in normal and neurodegenerative cells with implications for Alzheimer's disease research, and becoming an assistant geneticist at Massachusetts General Hospital. The interview ends with Wasco discussing her work on presenilin 2; her research on calsenilin and amyloid precursor-like proteins, the long- and short-term applications of her work; and her opinion of biomedical research funding in the United States. She concludes with thoughts on balancing family and career; the privatization of scientific research; competition and collaboration in science; the national agenda for science; scientists and public policy; science literacy in the United States; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in her work.
Douglas Yee was born in Detroit, Michigan to parents who had fled China just before World War II. His father was an engineer and his mother a radiologist. His mother comes from a large family, all of whom left China and settled either in Hong Kong or in the United States; they remain close, getting together often for family events and holidays. Yee has one sibling, an older sister who took a PhD in social work at the University of Chicago.
Yee attended a boarding school for high school; he did not evince an early passion for science, but he did like the puzzle of chemistry, especially organic chemistry, when he was in college at the University of Michigan. He ended up majoring in zoology and anthropology. During the summers he worked in Joan Bull's lab at the National Institutes of Health, where he became interested in cancer and human genetics. He entered medical school at the University of Chicago; there he studied Epstein-Barr virus in Elliott Kieff's lab and realized that he wanted to concentrate on lab research rather than clinical practice. He married Janet Smith, with whom he now has two children. His internship and residency followed at North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; his specialty was internal medicine, his subspecialty oncology. After his residency he accepted a staff fellow position at the National Cancer Institute. He began his research on the role of insulin-like growth factors (IGF) in Marc E. Lippman's lab. From there he went to an instructorship at Georgetown University Medical Center; then to an assistant professorship at University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He is now an associate professor there; he continues his work on IGF, publishing many articles and winning a number of grants and awards.
Philippe M. Soriano grew up in New York City, the younger of two children. His parents are of French descent: his mother was born in Algiers, Algeria, and his father in Cairo, Egypt. He attended the Lycée Français, which had a typical French curriculum with the addition of some usual American classes. No one else in his family was involved in science, but Soriano showed an early interest, especially in a number of fields of biology.
Soriano’s several childhood trips to France helped him decide to attend the University of Paris. It was also the case that French science, especially genetics, was outstanding at the time. Although he found that there was a great culture shock involved in being in France, he did not regret his college years there, as they gave him a very different perspective on his work. During the summers Soriano worked at the Bayer labs in Germany and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. He pursued his doctorate at the University of Paris, working with DNA sequences in higher mammals in the lab of Giorgio Bernardi; Soriano reflected on higher education in France and the strengths of Bernardi’s lab.
His work on DNA cloning and fractionation techniques earned Soriano two doctorates, after which he was offered a chargé de recherche position by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Soriano used gene delivery techniques at the Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire in Orléans, France and sought to make transgenic mice, though he also discussed Rudolf Jaenisch’s first gene knockout experiment that resulted in a lethal mutation and his own attempts to clone a histocompatibility gene. At Bernardi’s request he taught cDNA cloning in South Africa and Tunisia, a topic Soriano used to speak about science in Third World countries, his own international perspective, and the danger of scientific inbreeding.
Soriano began a postdoc in the Jaenisch lab in Hamburg. After about six months Jaenisch moved his lab (people, mice, and some equipment) to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Soriano explains the setup of the lab in Hamburg, the complicated move, and the state of science in Germany. For his work, Soriano infected embryos with retroviruses to create transgenic mice, determined at what stage cells are allocated to somatic or germ cell lineage, implemented noninvasive means of tracking cells, conducted loss-of-function studies, and used retrovirus probes instead of electroporation.
Deciding not to return to France, Soriano left the Jaenisch lab for a position at Baylor College of Medicine. He received Howard Hughes Medical Institute funding and comparea it to other types of funding, in the context of which he talka about the cost of running a mouse lab and big labs versus small labs.
Soriano’s interest in the src gene continues, and he explains more about cell lineages; functional redundancy; interpreting gene knockout results; licensing and selling mutant mice; cooperating with biotechnology companies; and ethical issues involved in working for biotechnology companies and surrounding gene therapy. He concludes his interview by discussing his planned move to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. And he describes some of his future research plans and compares and contrasts basic science research and applied research.
Jason D. Weber grew up in Edwardsville, Illinois, one of two children. His father was an internist; his mother a teacher. As a youngster he liked to read, especially science fiction, to hang around with friends, and to play soccer. He was always interested in science. Weber entered Bradley University to study biotechnology, a new field that was to become what is now called molecular biology. He discontinued his soccer playing after the first year so that he could concentrate on his studies. In his second year he entered the lab of Samuel Fan, who Weber says was his greatest influence. A radiation biology class led him into the study of cancer and tumor suppression. He also met his future wife while an undergraduate. He loved working in the lab and knew he wanted to do that for his career. Before entering graduate school he spent a year and a half at Monsanto, working on Celebrex in Peter Isakson's lab. For his PhD he went into St. Louis University's cell and molecular biology program, where Joseph Baldassare became his mentor, working on the cell cycle and publishing five papers in addition to his thesis. At a meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Weber met Charles Sherr and decided he wanted to go to Sherr's lab at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. There he worked on ARF. His work got him onto the cover of the first issue of Nature Cell Biology. Weber began looking for a job, hoping to stay in the Midwest. He accepted an assistant professorship at Washington University in St. Louis's new molecular oncology program, where he is now an associate professor. At the end of the interview he describes his own start-up package; his style of lab management; his postdocs and students; his publications and grants; the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award's timeliness; the Pew meetings; patents; his responsibilities at the university; and science education. He analogizes science to the farm-team system in baseball. He talks a little about his family and how he balances his life with them with his work life. Weber concludes the interview with an explanation of plans for his future work and a commentary on science and scientists in other countries, particularly China and Japan, versus those in the United States.
Yixian Zheng was born and raised in Chongqing, the Sichuan province of China, the elder (by about nine years) of the family's two daughters. Both of her parents were professors at Chongqing University—her mother in metallurgy and her father in mechanical engineering—her extended family members were, predominantly, farmers and other tradesmen. She went to elementary school on the campus of Chongqing University with dreams of becoming a writer like her father had been before settling into engineering. The end of the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s brought about a radical change in Zheng's education as there was much competition to get into college; ultimately she decided to pursue science and technology instead of writing as a career path. She entered Sichuan University in Chengdu intent on studying biology, which, at the time, had more of a relationship, in her mind, to forestry and being outdoors. While there, Zheng was very active in extracurricular activities and became interested in cell biology after taking a course with an influential professor, Wenshi Pan. When she had not made a decision on her plans after graduation, Zheng went to work for Southwestern Agricultural University in Chongqing as an instructor for two years. Upon encouragement from her father, who, at the time, was a visiting professor in the United States at the University of Akron in Ohio, Zheng took the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and then applied for admission to Ohio State University's graduate program. After being accepted, she worked in Berl R. Oakley's laboratory and determined that science was her calling; her graduate thesis focused on gamma tubulin and centrosome function. Zheng completed her doctorate and took a postdoctoral position in Bruce Alberts's laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco, where she continued research on centrosome function and purification of the gamma tubulin complex. Zheng and her husband, Max Q. B. Guo, who was also a scientist, then had to deal with the two-body problem; Zheng accepted a position at the Carnegie Institute of Washington in Baltimore, Maryland and her husband came along to finish his postdoctoral research. At the Carnegie Institute, her research on microtubules led to a collaboration with Douglas E. Koshland. At the end of the interview, Zheng speaks about her greatest strengths in research; the manner in which she sets research priorities; and her future research. Additionally, she discusses issues such as competition in science, generating new research ideas, and the qualities of a good science. Both technology and the choice of her model system have influenced her research, and Zheng explores both factors at length. She also talks about other aspects of being a principal investigator, including her research process, tenure, grants, teaching, and balancing family with career. Lastly, Zheng discusses the impact the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences has had on her work.
Jonathan S. Stamler, the oldest of four children, was born and spent his first eleven years in Wallingford, near Oxford, England. His father's family had escaped to England before the start of World War II, and his mother's family fled first to Belgium and then to the United States. While Stamler's father was on a Fulbright to Brandeis and Harvard universities he met Stamler's mother, and they married and moved back to England. Stamler's father founded a Zionist-oriented college, called Carmel College, and the family lived in England until Jonathan was about eleven. Then they moved to Israel, where the senior Stamler worked for a wealthy Iranian. At about the time he was leaving for college, his family moved to Miami and then to New York City. Stamler was, by his own admission, an unenthusiastic student, but he played tennis, was selected for the national junior team in Israel and played in the Davis Cup. Despite academic challenges in his junior and senior years of high school, Stamler was accepted at Brandeis University, where he wanted only to continue his tennis career. After a freshman hazing incident left him with a bad hand injury, he lost a year of tennis. He decided that the only way to pass the time was to study, and by his sophomore year he was pre-med. He finished Phi Beta Kappa. He wanted to be in New York City, so he applied and was accepted to Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. He found his preceptor, Ray Matta, a superb clinician and cardiologist, one who inspired Stamler to go into cardiology himself. While doing his residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital, he read about free radicals and started doing research on them in his own time. Eventually he came upon nitric oxide, which is still his area of interest. He was denied a cardiology fellowship, but Roland Ingram, chief of pulmonary at Brigham gave him one and said he could use it in cardiology. He also got a cardiology fellowship from West Roxbury VA Hospital, so he spent four years doing two fellowships. During that time he married, and he and his wife had two children. In addition to being an assistant professor at Harvard and to doing research, Stamler co-founded a private company. He was recruited by Duke University, where he has appointments in both pulmonary and cardiology; he received tenure in two years. He has always sought answers to things that puzzle him, and he found that research was the place for him, not the clinic. He continues to work with nitric oxide, to write grants, to publish, and to attempt to balance his career with his family life.
Philip B. Wedegaertner grew up in Stockton, California, the younger of two siblings. His father was an organic chemistry professor at the University of the Pacific; his mother held several part-time, volunteer positions while raising her children, though, later in life, went to college at the University of the Pacific and obtained her bachelor's degree in history. Wedegaertner enjoyed reading, playing sports (he joined the wrestling team in high school), and camping (he became an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America). He met the woman who later became his wife in high school through church activities; he always did well in school, liking mathematics and the sciences, but was unsure of what career he wanted to pursue. He matriculated at the University of California, Davis with an undeclared major for his first two years there; subsequently he majored in biochemistry with a minor in history. During the summer of his junior year Wedegaertner worked with James W. Blankenship in the School of Pharmacy at University of the Pacific; during his senior year he worked closely with a graduate student in Donald M. Carlson's laboratory on various independent projects. After completing his undergraduate degree, Wedegaertner decided to remain on the West Coast and pursue graduate work in biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego. There he worked with Gordon N. Gill—after developing an interest in signal transduction—synthesizing and characterizing the tyrosine kinase domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor. Wedegaertner then decided to go abroad and took a short-term postdoctoral fellowship with Claude Cochet, who had worked with Gill, in Grenoble, France; then he returned to the United States and studied with Henry R. Bourne at the University of California, San Francisco, focusing on lipid modifications of G proteins. At the end of his postdoctoral studies, Wedegaertner accepted a position at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, continuing work on G proteins. Throughout the end of the interview he speaks about the process of writing journal articles in the various labs in which he worked, and in his own; how he balances his family life and career; the issue of patents; and the qualities of a good scientist. The interview ends with Wedegaertner's thoughts on the history of science; tenure at Thomas Jefferson University; competition and collaboration in science; the national scientific agenda; the privatization of scientific research; the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his work; and lessons learned in becoming a principal investigator.
Yi Zhong was born in Ji Shou, Hunan Province, China, shortly before the Cultural Revolution began. His father had been a sort of director of an Army athletic program and his mother an internist in a government hospital, but when Yi was about eight the Cultural Revolution reassigned his parents, his father to a school for reeducating administrators and his mother to a farm. Yi and his sister and brother lived with their maternal grandparents; their parents visited when they could. Yi feels that he was somewhat isolated as a youngster and sometimes rebellious. At some point the whole family was sent to a farm about forty miles from the grandparents, and they had to walk the whole way there. Yi felt that his schools were not especially good because education was not valued, except for science classes. He had only basic subjects in school, but because he valued knowledge he studied on his own. He always liked mathematics and physics. After Yi finished high school he was assigned to a farm to live. There he designed and made a radio, on which he heard about the protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1976, the beginning of the end of the Cultural Revolution. Deng Xiaoping came into power and reestablished the primacy of education, reinstituting entrance to college by examination. Yi was accepted at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He was so excited he left all his possessions at the farm and hitchhiked home, from there taking to Beijing a train so packed he could not even get to the restroom. In college Yi had no choice of subject but was assigned to study nuclear engineering. There he also first learned about space exploration, music, philosophy, even Chinese novels. Yi went to the movies (where he met his future wife); he played Go and bridge; he tasted his first beer. He met Mu-Ming Poo, who recommended Yi to Chun-Fang Wu at the University of Iowa as a PhD student. When Yi received his bachelor's degree he wanted to change subjects to biology because he found physics hard and biology more intuitive. Yi suffered severe culture shock when he arrived in the United States. He marveled at Americans' personal freedom, especially because he could determine his own future, not have it assigned to him. He began his work with Aplysia, spending three years analyzing excitability. He was really interested in the brain, however, in learning memory, and switched to Drosophila. After finishing his PhD he accepted an offer of his own lab, no postdoc, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He visits China once or twice a year; he collaborates and intends to set up his own parallel lab there. Yi feels that it has taken him several years and a number of changes (he gets bored) of subject to reach his professional goals. He likes his coworkers at Cold Spring Harbor and their work; he hopes that opening a lab in China will provide more and cheaper manpower and that the two labs can exchange postdocs. He feels that he has three things he still wants to study: the brain; Alzheimer's disease; and learning enhancement. And, he adds, a fourth thing: he wants to write a book about the nervous system of the fly.
Markus Stoffel was born and raised in Cologne, Germany, the second youngest of four siblings. His father was a professor and the chairman of the Department of Biochemistry of the Universitat zu Köln in Cologne; his mother received a degree in sociology while in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. His family was very close and enjoyed reading, music, theater, and other facets of an intellectual and cultural life, often hosting scientists and other academics at their home. Stoffel received the standard Gymnasium education (about which he speaks at length), was interested in science from an early age, and had the opportunity to spend a high school year abroad in Cambridge, England—where he was struck by the specialization of the educational system and the teaching—which proved quite formative.
After deciding on a career in science/medicine, Stoffel began his studies at Rheinische Friedrich-Willhelms-Universitat in Bonn, Germany, but he was drawn back to England, specifically Cambridge University, for three years (two years of coursework and a year of laboratory research under Anthony Minson), before returning to Bonn, Germany, for his clinical training. He encountered many influential and high-profile scientists while at Cambridge, which is also where he learned genetic research while working on cytomegalovirus at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute under Anthony Minson and Geoffrey L. Smith. After receiving his degree in Bonn, Stoffel took an internship position at the University of Hamburg in Germany before taking another at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in New York. After his two internships, a budding interest in the growing research regarding the genetics of diabetes, and a recommendation from a family friend, Purnell W. Choppin, Stoffel applied to the University of Chicago, where he received a position and worked under Graeme I. Bell on candidate genes involved in diabetes. Upon finishing his postdoctoral research, he accepted a position at the Rockefeller University, continuing work on the chromosome 20 project he had begun while in Bell's lab and also looking at the genes and transcription factors involved in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes.
At the end of the interview, Stoffel details his current research as well as what paths his research may take in the future, including large-scale genetic studies on diabetes in the island population of Kosrae and research on development and differentiation in the pancreatic beta cell. He also discusses broader issues of science, including: collaboration and competition in his research area; the grant-writing process; and funding systems in both the United States and Europe. Stoffel talks in depth about his position at the Rockefeller University, his teaching responsibilities, and his patents; he additionally discusses how this work life is balanced with his family life. After making more comparisons between scientific ethical issues in the United States and Europe, he expands on that idea and talks about the ethical issues of gene therapy and stem cell research. He concludes the interview by relating his professional and personal goals and noting the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his work.
William Weis was born and grew up in Queens, New York, the youngest of three brothers. His grandparents immigrated from Ukraine, Belarus, and Latvia, ultimately settling in Brooklyn, New York. A "frustrated architect," his father was in the United States Merchant Marines in World War II, where he learned electronics; he later earned a degree in electrical engineering at Brooklyn Polytechnic (now Polytechnic Institute of New York University) and worked in vacuum tubes until technology passed them by, at which time he began work for the New York City Office of Management and Budget. Weis's mother was an administrator in a volunteer social work agency and the administrator of a close family. Weis always liked learning and school. He especially liked mathematics and science, even reading his older brother's entire anatomy textbook when he (William) was in sixth grade. In eighth grade he took a class of biology and chemistry together and fell in love with biochemistry. In high school he took two science classes every year and was on the math team. Since a broad base of learning was important to him, Weis knew he wanted to attend a liberal arts college that also had strong science. He was accepted at Princeton University, and although it was financially difficult for his parents, he did go there and loved it. He majored in biochemistry and discovered spectroscopy, writing his graduation thesis on rhodopsin spectroscopy. Because DNA sequencing was new, many others went into molecular biology, but Weis liked physical chemistry best. He worked in Meredithe Applebury's lab, and she and Zoltan Soos were his major influences. For graduate school Weis wanted a strongly quantitative school and one large enough to have a choice of labs. Matriculating into Harvard University, Weis liked all his rotations, but he found Don Wiley's crystallography lab perfect for him. Wiley was doing fascinating work and was extremely enthusiastic about science. There he worked on influenza hemagglutinin. When he finished his PhD he decided to spend a year at Yale University, working with Axel Brünger on simulated annealing, getting a better model of hemagglutinin. From there he went to Columbia University Medical Center, to Wayne Hendrickson's lab, where he spent the "best four years of [his] life" studying the structure of C-type lectins using MAD phasing (multiwavelength anomalous scattering phasing or dispersion). He accepted an assistant professorship at Stanford University, taking his research with him. In addition to managing his lab with its different personalities, he teaches some and has a few administrative duties. He likes writing papers and does not mind writing grants, of which he has received several. He has achieved tenure. He loves his work and spends most days in the lab, though he also takes time for his girlfriend. He feels he has met his goals so far, especially his professional goals. He thinks he would someday like to do community work, perhaps science education in earlier grades, particularly among minority students. His current research comprises three areas: the C-type lectins; an interest in cell adhesion, specifically cadherins (calcium-dependent adhesion molecules); and intracellular vesicle trafficking.
Z. Hong Zhou was born in Hunan Province in China the year before the Cultural Revolution, the eldest of three siblings. His father was a factory worker who was home only one day a week; his mother a housewife who cared for her children. Though in school, Zhou felt as if he had little to no education prior to middle school, since the first few years of the Revolution were spent trying to organize an educational system (Zhou's first-grade teacher held class in an abandoned building found in the area). At the end of the Cultural Revolution, though, China committed itself to science and Zhou's father, in response, spent a month's salary on buying a set of science books for Zhou to encourage his education. At the age of fourteen Zhou went off to high school at a boarding school a distance away from his village, not returning to see his home for over a year. Zhou did well on his college entrance exams and, with an intense interest in high-energy physics, he applied to and was accepted at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei. Ultimately he received a master's degree under Lienchao Tsien conducting research using cyclotron radiation imaging, also intending to pursue a doctoral degree abroad. He started his graduate education at New York University but then moved on to the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, working in Wah Chiu's laboratory—his doctoral thesis focused on imaging the herpes virus. After meeting L. Ridgway Scott, Zhong decided to undertake a postdoctoral fellowship as a National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health-sponsored trainee in the Departments of Mathematics and of Computer Sciences at the University of Houston under Scott developing computational biology methods. From there he accepted a position at the University of Texas Medical Center studying viruses using structural and computational biology. At the end of the interview Zhong talks about balancing his family life and his career; the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his work; his lab management style; and the practical applications of his research. He also discusses his collaboration with industry; his future research developing the technology of imaging while studying viral cell interactions; and the process of conducting scientific research before speaking more about the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in his research.
Michel Streuli was born in Zürich, Switzerland, where his father was a doctor and his mother a law librarian. When he was about three, Michel and his family moved to Bronxville, New York, where his father had taken a postdoc. After a couple of years the family moved back to Switzerland, later returning to the United States, where Michel began school. In school he liked mathematics and engineering. He built a washing machine and an artificial kidney with his father when he was ten or twelve. In high school he enjoyed mathematics and science classes; he had a very good biology teacher. He tutored math in Harlem and enjoyed sports. He had always wanted to be a doctor and a scientist, and since Tufts was known to have a good program in child development and pediatrics, Michel began college there, with biology as his major. He also joined the squash team. After his junior year he went to Switzerland for a summer but stayed for a year. He finished his degree in the United States and then went back to Zürich to do research in Charles Weissman's lab, where he worked on cloning interferon. He returned after five years to the Dana-Farber Cancer Center to work in Stuart F. Schlossman's lab. He found a place in Haruo Saito's lab, working on cloning antigens, specifically the antigen CD45, the leukocyte common antigen. It had been cloned for a part of the rat gene but not for the human. During this period, he married Elsa Gontrum, who was studying art history at Yale. They have since had two children. After finishing his postdoc, he accepted an assistant professorship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center and at Harvard University, in the department of pathology. He is now an associate professor and continues his research, hoping that eventually scientists will develop cancer therapies. He has patented some of his discoveries; he continues to publish articles and win awards; and he and his wife attempt to balance family life with their two careers.
John H. Weiss grew up in San Francisco, California, the oldest of three children. His parents were both psychiatrists. He attended a private grade school and a less traditional high school; he found school interesting but not especially difficult. He developed his interest in math and science early, and he found that science came naturally to him as he was interested in discerning patterns in the way the world works. Weiss entered Stanford University, where he majored in biology with a focus on neuroscience. After taking an extra year of undergraduate study, he applied to medical school. He spent six months in a biochemistry research lab, and he attended science classes while at Stanford University School of Medicine, but uncertainty prevented Weiss from seeking a lab position. He found that the practical challenges of medical residency proved more difficult than course work when he started a neurology residency. During that residency he met Dennis W. Choi and entered the Stanford PhD program in neuroscience. In the Choi lab he began work on mechanisms of nerve cell degeneration in stroke and on glutamate's toxic effect on nerve cells. Choi proposed two phases of glutamate injury. Research on nerve degenerative diseases on Guam led Weiss to study β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA). His work in the Choi lab on BMAA yielded clues regarding AMPA/kainate receptor activation in nerve-degenerative diseases. He discovered that BMAA's toxicity depends on a covalent interaction with other compounds, explaining about AMPA/kainate toxicity and receptor activation, the role of voltage-sensitive calcium channels, BMAA's role in nerve-degenerative disease, and the finding that zinc accumulation in voltage-sensitive calcium channels might cause cell death (apoptosis). Weiss accepted a position at University of California, Irvine, and received a Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award and a National Institutes of Health grant, though he did not have lab space immediately available at Irvine. While starting his lab he had teaching and clinical responsibilities, he had to find and hire postdocs, and he had to mentor students. At the end of the interview Weiss discusses AMPA/kainate-type glutamate receptor-mediated toxicity in selective nerve cell degeneration; calcium in selective injury; a collaboration with the Choi lab to study "cobalt positive" NADPH-diaphorase cells; attempts to improve upon historically poor results of calcium imaging studies; correlating calcium influx and intercellular calcium levels with cell death; and the role of zinc in selective injury. His collaboration with Carl Cotman on β-amyloid protein's toxicity in cortical cell cultures and new directions for research on cellular functions constituted his attempts to establish a reputation separate from Choi's and to overcome the competitive pressure he felt in his field. He concludes by saying that he has found a supportive community at the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences annual meetings.
Kai Zinn was born in Berkeley, California, but grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. His father, now retired, was a chemist working on weapons research; his mother, who came to the United States from Germany after World War II, teaches German. Zinn had two brothers, but one was killed when he was fourteen. During high school, Zinn became an Explorer Scout and began to engage in outdoor activities like rafting, climbing, skiing, hiking. Zinn decided to attend the University of California at San Diego, where Paul Saltman inspired him to major in chemistry. During his last year in college, Zinn worked on an independent study with Jack Kyte. After graduation Zinn had planned to travel, but he fell at Yosemite National Park and broke his leg, so he ended up back at Kyte's lab for a month or so during that summer. Then he spent a year just traveling, visiting Nepal, Thailand, and the Virgin Islands. During his travels he picked up giardia and was ill for several months. Kyte helped persuade Zinn to go to Harvard for his PhD. There he worked on SV40 in Mark Ptashne's lab. While at Harvard, Zinn and Pamela J. Bjorkman, who was working on HLA (histocompatibility locus antigen) in Don Wiley's lab. met and married. Zinn next moved to Tom Maniatis's lab to work on interferon. After that, tired of interferon, Zinn moved to Corey Goodman's lab. Pamela stayed another year at Harvard, finally finishing the structure of HLA. After joining Zinn in California, Pamela discovered that she was pregnant with their son Leif. Zinn finished his postdocs at Stanford and Berkeley and then accepted a job at California Institute of Technology, where he is now an associate professor. He continues to publish, teach, read novels, work less then he would like on the bench, and spend time with his son, Leif, his daughter, Katya, and his wife.
Lubert Stryer was born in Tientsin (now Tianjin), China. He and his family lived in Shanghai until he was about ten. Lubert’s father had come to China from Germany, his mother from Russia, in order to escape the turmoil in Europe, but the Japanese invaded and interned Shanghai’s British, Canadian, and American citizens. Somehow the Stryers escaped notice and, after the war, obtained visas for the United States, moving to Forest Hills, New York. Lubert had always loved school, and he found his high school to be of excellent quality. As a youngster he loved baseball and chemistry; he founded his own newspaper, The Daily Bugle, and he became interested in photography.
Stryer was fascinated by history when he was in high school, and he planned to become a lawyer, but the head of the science department asked him to do some research on bioluminescent bacteria, and Lubert was “hooked.” He applied to Harvard University and the University of Chicago for college, knowing that he would need a good scholarship; he accepted the offer from Chicago, matriculating at sixteen. With medical school as his goal and majoring in physiology, he worked at Argonne National Laboratories in the summers, becoming interested in photodynamic action. Here began his lifelong passion, “light and life.” The intellectual experience in college was intense, and friendships abounded. It was also an exciting time of exploding knowledge in science, with DNA being discovered, oscilloscopes replacing smoke drums. Always eager for the next experience or challenge, Lubert finished college in three years, accepted an offer from Harvard, and entered medical school at the age of nineteen.
At Harvard Lubert again found himself among the brightest scientific minds of his generation; he called upon his friendships to establish a relationship with Elkan Blout, who remained his mentor throughout his school years. Blout directed Lubert to Children’s Cancer Research Foundation, where he worked on polypeptides conformation and learned spectroscopy. When he was in his last year of medical school, Stryer knew that he did not want to practice medicine and forwent internship for an immediate postdoctoral fellowship. In Carolyn Cohen’s laboratory, he learned x-ray diffraction, drank much coffee, and engaged in many wide-ranging discussions with labmates. During this year he also was tutored in physics and mathematics by Edward Purcell and began learning computing; having married his Chicagoan fiancée, Andrea, when he was twenty, for which he needed his parents’ consent, he also fathered his first child. At that point Blout arranged for Stryer to study with Sir John Kendrew at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England. Again he worked among and with Nobel Prize-winning scientists: Kendrew, Crick, Watson, Perutz, Sanger.
After about a year Arthur Kornberg asked Kendrew for recommendations, and Stryer’s next stop was Stanford. Teaching protein structure and function, he found wonderful science and scientists at Stanford too. Stryer believes that he flourished during the “golden age” of science, which began to change after the Vietnam War.
After a few years at Stanford Lubert, now an associate professor, wanted to change his research area to visual excitation, so when Yale offered him a full professorship and all the lab space he wanted, he and his wife and now two sons moved east. Using the notes he developed for his class in biochemistry Stryer wrote his now-canonical textbook. He feels that although he did not publish so much while at Yale his work there set the stage for his later discoveries in amplification in vision.
Stanford offered him chairmanship of the new department of structural biology, and back they all went to California. There Stryer wrote the next edition of his textbook. He gave up his chairmanship after a couple of years because he found it “not fun.” This relinquishment allowed him to become more proficient on (very early) computers, even writing his own programs. Most importantly, he enjoyed a “magic moment” when he discovered that a single photon can lead to the activation of five-hundred molecules of transducin.
As Stryer has gradually disentangled himself from his university work his position in the scientific community has evolved. He sees himself creating new ways to do interesting things outside of the lab. He became an advisor for the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences, helping to promote new young scientists. He has been involved in several companies in private industry, a result of his interest in olfaction and vision; he has established and led BIO2010 to study the future of undergraduate biology education, and helped implement those ideas at Stanford; he remains interested in human evolution, continuing several projects, studying just for the sake of learning.
Lubert Stryer’s list of honors, culminating in the National Medal of Science, is extensive and impressive. His own description of his science, “light and life,” best describes Stryer himself.