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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Torsten N. Wiesel was born and grew up near Stockholm, Sweden, the youngest of five children. His father was a psychiatrist at Beckomberga Hospital, a mental institution comprising 30-40 fenced acres, and the whole family lived in the compound, as did other staff members and their families. Wiesel attended a private school in Stockholm, but was more interested in soccer and orienteering than studying. When he was in his teens his parents divorced, and he decided to become a doctor. He attended medical school at Karolinska Institute and worked there for a few years before coming to the United States as a postdoc in Stephen Kuttler's lab at Johns Hopkins University. There he worked on epilepsy. One of his brothers had become schizophrenic; this, along with his frustration with the lack of insightful care for the mentally ill in the 1940's and 1950's, prompted Torsten's interest in neuroscience. Working in Kuttler's lab with Kenneth Brown, he dealt with retinal ganglion receptive fields/responses to light stimulation, using cats and monkeys as his lab animals. David Hubel arrived at Hopkins, and the two men began a very long collaboration that in 1981 garnered them the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Eventually, after moving through several departments at Harvard University, Wiesel ended up in the neurobiology department, where he ultimately became the chairman. In 1983, after Torsten had been chairman for ten years, he and Charles Gilbert, with whom he was then working, moved to Rockefeller University. There he became chairman of the faculty, and was thus asked to be president when David Baltimore resigned. Wiesel brought together again the disillusioned faculty and, with a substantial gift from David Rockefeller, recruited more good scientists. He now spends some time in Sweden, where he visits his two sisters and one brother twice a year, and in Strasbourg, where he is Secretary General of the Human Frontier Science Program. He has many professional affiliations and directorships; he has won many, many awards, and he has published much.
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.
David J. Sullivan, Jr.'s interview begins with a discussion of his childhood in Birmingham, Alabama during which he was surrounded by a large and supportive family. He cites the importance of his family's Catholicism, strong work ethic, and their emphasis on Scouting in fostering his interests. After deciding to attend the University of Virginia, Sullivan's scientific interests blossomed throughout the 1980s against the backdrop of HIV and other infectious diseases. While undertaking his medical education at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Sullivan developed an interest in scientific research with clinical applications. Concurrent with his medical education, Sullivan pursued a study of bioethics that he brought to his residency and fellowship work at Washington University in St. Louis. Before moving to St. Louis, Missouri, however, Sullivan worked at a clinic in Mussoorie, India, during the last few months of medical school. Throughout the interview, Sullivan described his service work in the community, including his time in India, and how community service allowed him to meet the Dalai Lama. While in St. Louis, Sullivan worked with Daniel E. Goldberg and concentrated his infectious disease research on the field of malaria. Continuing his efforts on heme crystallization and Zinc photoporphyrin-9, Sullivan brought his malaria research to Johns Hopkins University. Shortly after beginning as a principal investigator, Sullivan received a Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award. He described the impact of the award as well as his perceptions of the annual meetings held during his four years as a Scholar. The interview concludes with Sullivan's discussion of biomedical funding, science after September 11th, and biomedical ethics in relation to funding.
Trevor Williams, the youngest of three children, was born and grew up in Wolverhampton, England. His father worked for the railroads; he was drafted into the Royal Engineers, where he met Trevor's mother, who became a school cook. The elder of Trevor's two older sisters was not interested in school, but the next sister fought their parents to be able to attend college; this helped prepare the way for Trevor. Their neighborhood was working-class. The comprehensive school that Trevor was assigned to after elementary school was tough, and at the time did not graduate many college-bound pupils. However, he did well enough on a school exam to be accepted into the local grammar school instead. He had always liked school, especially science. As a perk of his job, Trevor's father received a number of train tickets each year, tickets that Trevor and his mother would use to visit her family in Kent; this meant transferring in London , and on those trips they would visit the natural history or science museums, further fueling Trevor's interest in science. Trevor's grammar school encouraged him to strive for Oxbridge; he applied to Cambridge because he had been told Oxford was more snooty and because of the importance of science at Cambridge . A class with Tony Minson convinced him that virology would be his specialty. After his second year he won a research fellowship to study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where he worked on herpes virus in James McDougall's lab. The next year his interest in the molecular genetics of cancer as related to viruses led him to spend a summer fellowship in Joe Sambrook's lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Subsequently, Trevor moved to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, where he began his PhD studies with Michael Hayman, but later switched to Michael Fried's lab to study cell enhancers. Shifting from virology to molecular biochemistry, Trevor accepted a postdoc in Robert Tjian's lab at University of California at Berkeley . There he jumped into research on AP transcription. Realizing that science in the United States provided a more comprehensive market for all kinds of research, Trevor decided not to return to Britain. He accepted an assistant professorship at Yale, where he has since become an associate professor. Still preferring basic science to applied, he continues his research into AP-2. He has been a Howard Hughes Fellow and has won a Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences award; he continues to write and publish his work; he teaches undergraduate classes as well the students in his lab; he writes grant proposals; and he attempts to balance all this with having a personal life.
Charles S. Zuker was born and raised in Arica, Chile, on the border of Peru and Bolivia though the family moved to Santiago when Zuker was in the third year of his high school. His father was a prominent businessman, his mother a homemaker; Zuker was the second oldest of four siblings. He had a normal childhood playing with friends, though, from an early age, he was interested in biology and medicine but not in becoming a doctor. Although Jewish, he attended Jesuit schools since, from his parents' perspective, they provided the best education in Chile. The reign of Salvador Allende Gossens caused some perturbation within Chile and for Zuker's family but did not have much of an impact on Zuker's education; the prominence of electrophysiological work on the giant squid, a native of Chile, provided some access to well-trained scientists. He was tracked, from an early age, to study biology and so he entered the Universidad Católica de Valparaiso for his degree, knowing all the while that he wanted to pursue a doctoral degree in the United States. He worked as a teaching assistant as an undergraduate, learned about scientific research from a doctoral student at the university, and became handy at building his own equipment with little funds. He applied to and was accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for his graduate studies, during which time he had to develop rapidly his knowledge of the English language. After rotating through several labs, Zuker settled in to work with Harvey F. Lodish using slime molds as a system for studying development and trying to characterize the genes turned on as the molds developed spores. He moved on to a postdoctoral position at the University of California, Berkeley with Gerald M. Rubin, focusing more on neurobiological questions and, ultimately, research on photoreceptor cell function. Zuker used an RNA probe to isolate the rhodopsin gene in Drosophila; findings from this work published in Cell were done so simultaneously with competitors Joseph E. O'Tousa and William L. Pak. He then accepted a faculty position at the University of California, San Diego, and set up his research on Drosophila signaling pathways. Throughout the interview he talks about his role and reputation at San Diego, as well as the joint graduate program with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, basic research in underdeveloped countries, and the standards of graduate education. The interview concludes with Zuker's thoughts on the value of competition in science; his graduate students; balancing time in the lab with time with his family; the significance of the ninaA gene in explaining why cyclosporinA suppresses immune reactions; the development of electrophysiology techniques; the inability to do targeted mutagenesis on Drosophila; using the presence or absence of a protein as an assay to determine whether a gene is active or not; the process of breeding genetic stock in the laboratory; knocking out fly genes and attempting to rescue the function; and the utility of mutants in exploring the signaling pathway. He ends the interview with a discussion of how technology dominates modern biological research but cannot substitute for imagination and intuition; evolutionary conservation; learning the cause of retinitis pigmentosa; the quality of National Institutes of Health study sections; and his intense devotion to science.
Hong Sun was born and raised in Beijing, China, during the Cultural Revolution, the older of two siblings. Both of her parents were physicians who, later in their careers, focused more on medical research than practice—her mother in pathology, her father in immunology. Life during the Revolution provided a "chaotic" education at times, including a year of re-education in the countryside at the end of high school, and also family separation (Sun's parents were sent to the countryside for several years for re-education, while Sun remained in Beijing under her grandmother's care). The rise of Deng Xiaoping to power after Chairman Mao brought a return of the college admission program, giving Sun the ability to develop and pursue her interest in science, attending Beijing Medical College, from which she received her medical degree. She also took part in the basic research program at the medical school, studying the binding affinity of monoclonal antibodies against aflatoxin for her thesis. Wanting to move more into research Sun received first place in the China United States Biochemistry Examination and Admission (CUSBEA) program examination and attended Harvard University for her doctoral study on the merits of its prestige, especially in the field of biomedical science. At Harvard, while adjusting to American culture, Sun worked with Jack W. Szostak on the recombination process in meiosis. From there she moved on to a postdoctoral position at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York with Nicholas K. Tonks researching the protein tyrosine phosphatase and MKP-1—her husband, also a scientist, took a position there as well. Interested most by research, Sun sought out a position at a research university, and, along with her husband, took a position at Yale University. Throughout the interview, Sun compares various aspects of American and Chinese life and culture, including the educational systems and the practice of science. At the end of the interview she discusses her time at Yale, including setting up her laboratory, learning about the tenure process, teaching, and balancing her family and career; she notes as well that her recent research on protein tyrosine phosphatases and the mechanism of tumor formation has potential short-term and long-term applications in the areas of cancer research and aging. The interview concludes with Sun's reflections on gender issues in science; collaborations between industry and the academy; the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on her work; and changes she would make to improve the quality of science in the United States.
Thomas E. Wilson's oral history begins with a discussion of his childhood in Neenah, Wisconsin where his father was a chemical engineer with Kimberley-Clark. While his father often brought work and work-related discussions home, his mother, a teacher, also encouraged the academic and inquisitive environment of the household. Nature activities, building projects, and music heavily influenced Wilson's childhood. Although there was brief interest in attending college to pursue a study of music, Wilson matriculated at the University of Wisconsin from which a number of his family members had graduated. During his undergraduate studies Wilson was involved in the Medical Scholars Program for pre-medical studies, pursued biology research with Charles B. Kaspar, and built musical instruments. The developing field of molecular biology and the excitement of research lessened Wilson's interest in pursuing the medical degree, however, Wilson decided upon a combined MD/PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis where he could continue his longstanding interest in medicine but pursue a laboratory research program as well. While Wilson acknowledges the flaws in combined programs, he still believes in the ideological and practical benefits of integrating the clinical and laboratory aspects of the two degrees. Joining Jeffrey D. Milbrant's laboratory for his PhD research, Wilson undertook a DNA binding project that allowed him to collaborate with yeast geneticist Mark Johnston. Wilson and his wife, who was also in the MD/PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis, started their family while still in graduate school, which changed the amount of time Wilson spent in the lab, but taught him an increased level of efficiency. Wilson experienced difficulty transitioning from the PhD program back to the clinical rotations of medical school, leading him to focus less on clinical work and more on research. He set his sights on pathology which enabled him to work with tissue in a medical context but not directly with patients. After earning his MD and PhD degrees, Wilson began his residency and post-doctoral research on DNA repair mechanisms with Michael R. Lieber. After Lieber moved to the University of Southern California, Wilson stayed at Washington University and used space in Milbrandt's lab in order to finish his work. He secured a position at the University of Michigan within the pathology department which would allow him ample laboratory opportunities while maintaining ties to the clinical world. Shortly after beginning as a principal investigator, Wilson earned the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award. Throughout the oral history interview Wilson discussed funding, balancing clinical and laboratory duties and work and family, and the public understanding of science.
Gerald Weissmann's oral history begins with a discussion of his family and childhood in Vienna, Austria. While still very young, Weissmann and his family fled the Nazi Anschluss. After their journey from Vienna to Italy, Paris, and London, and before finally reaching New York, Weissmann developed a political awareness at a young age. Throughout his youth in New York City, Weissmann's father, also a rheumatologist, exerted a positive influence on Gerald's own career path. Additionally, Weissmann was influenced and mentored by his father's friend and colleague, the famed pathologist, Paul D. Klemperer. After earning a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Columbia College, Weissmann, entered medical school at New York University [NYU], citing his love of science as a primary reason for following such a career path. Following an internship year at Mount Sinai Hospital, Weissmann entered the army and, while stationed at Fort Dix Army Hospital in New Jersey, he published his first scientific paper. Following his time in the army, Weissmann faced a decision between following a purely clinical career in rheumatology, like his father, or an academic one, focused on medicine and rheumatology research. Having opted for the research career, Weissmann continued his residency program at Mount Sinai Hospital and became chief resident at Bellevue Hospital under Lewis Thomas. Concurrent with his residency, Weissmann undertook research at NYU with Severo Ochoa. After becoming an Instructor in Medicine at NYU, Weissmann traveled to the Strangeways Research Laboratory at the University of Cambridge to collaborate with Dame Honor Fell studying the effects of excess Vitamin A on bone rudiment and cartilage. At approximately the same time, Weissmann's research transitioned from studying lysosomes into studying lipids. In the mid-1960s, Weissmann, along with close friend, Alec D. Bangham, discovered liposomes and developed a new field of research. In 1982 Weissmann and E. C. [Jack] Whitehead founded The Liposome Company, which received FDA approval for the drugs Abelcet and Myocet. In this oral history, Weissmann also discusses, in great detail, the origins of the Pew Biomedical Scholars Program. Although he heaped most praise on Joshua Lederberg for the program, Weissmann also described his influence and that of other early Advisory Board members. Contrasting the Pew funding for biomedical scientists with larger funding bodies like the NIH, Weissmann extolled the benefits of funding creative young scientists. In conclusion, Weissmann discusses his own popular scientific writings and larger issues in the history and sociology of science.
Karel Svoboda was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, though he and his family immigrated to western Germany—the Ruhr Valley—during the Cold War era, in stages: first, his father, then his mother, Svoboda, and one sister, and then, finally, his youngest sister. Both of Svoboda's parents studied chemical engineering, though only his father received his degree since his mother focused on raising their children; later, his mother became a teacher in Germany and then, when the family immigrated, the United States as well. In Germany, Svoboda attended an alternative school that focused much more on the arts, like music, chorus, and theater, which he enjoyed tremendously. He always performed well in his mathematics and science classes, and developed prowess in chess.
Not wanting to stagger his education for time in Germany's military service, Svoboda applied to several universities in the United States and chose to matriculate at Cornell University. He capitalized on the work-study program while there, working in a number of research labs throughout his undergraduate career, initially as a computer programmer. The summers he spent at Bell Laboratories, where he worked in statistics and then in physics, and the semester he spent at the Lawrence-Berkeley National Laboratory, where he worked full-time in a physics laboratory focused on high-temperature critical superconductors, were significant in his scientific development. After applying to and being accepted at Harvard University for graduate studies Svoboda deferred for a year in order to teach physics in Katmandu, Nepal. At Harvard, he started his doctoral work with Howard Berg but then also worked with Steven M. Block at the Rowland Institute for the Sciences. His love of Bell Laboratories during his undergraduate years brought him back there for postdoctoral research on synapses with Winfred Denk and David Tank, and gave him the opportunity to take what became a very influential course on neural systems at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Svoboda left Bell for a position at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, studying biophysical neuroscience in neocortical circuits and their plasticity, with the intent of expanding his work to ensembles of neocortical circuits.
As the interview came to a close, Svoboda discuss some of the general issues associated with being a principal investigator and a scientist working in the United States, like the issue of patents; the origin of his ideas; the process of conducting scientific research; becoming familiar with the history of a particular field of research; competition and collaboration in science; setting the national scientific agenda; and the role of the scientist in educating the public about science. The interview concluded with his thoughts on the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award.
Jeffrey Wilusz grew up in South Amboy, New Jersey, in a Polish Roman Catholic family. His father worked in various capacities for the telephone company; his mother was a homemaker until her four children were in school, at which time she began secretarial work. Wilusz attended Roman Catholic schools all through high school (his religion continues to influence his children's lives). He entered Rutgers-the State University, where he decided to pursue veterinary medicine, and the death of his favorite dog confirmed him in that decision. He found thinking through scientific issues similar to solving puzzles, and running helped him both clarify his thinking and relax. Although his high-school education had not provided scientific training and opportunities, he studied microbiology for his undergraduate degree. Wilusz became interested in virology and began graduate work at Duke University, where he overcame his lack of familiarity with new molecular ideas and procedures and intensified his interest in virology. Jack Keene (Pew Scholar Class of 1985) and Thomas Shenk became his mentors. He met and married Susan Miller, and they had two children. Lessons learned in Keene's lab helped Wilusz identify a leader RNA that binds to La protein. The Keene lab switched from vesicular stomatitis virus research to autoantigen research, which contributed to Wilusz's ability to identify acidic ribosomal proteins in autoantigens. He began the sequencing of Ebola virus-identified RNA structural regions that recognize antibodies, and began studying VA RNA in the Shenk lab. He used in vitro polyadenylation to study protein-RNA interactions. Wilusz accepted a postdoc at Princeton University, where he had to juggle career and family life. Wilusz then moved on to a position at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School, where he continued to pursue his interest in RNA research. During the interview he discusses the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing diverse lines of research in a lab; presenting research results at conferences; publishing; funding; and his current research projects. He answers questions about new technology's role in stimulating creative science; his greatest strengths as a scientist; his thoughts on scientific accountability and ethics. He describes how he juggles career and family life; the allocation of his time; his working relationship with graduate students; the problem of finding skilled lab personnel; his mentoring style; and the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Wilusz concludes his interview with his opinion about trends and problems in the biomedical sciences.