The Pew Charitable Trusts

Enrique P. von Gersdorff was born in Brazil, the son of a German father and Brazilian mother who had met in Angola. His father worked for the United Nations, so he and his family moved several times from one country to another, mostly in Africa, but also into Lebanon. When von Gersdorff was twelve his family moved back to Brazil. He attended American schools throughout these moves, so he learned English from an early age, though he spoke Portuguese at home. He attended an American high school until his last year, when he switched to a Brazilian one in order to prepare for the national graduation examination. He liked mathematics and resolved early to be a theoretical physicist. He also liked taking things apart to see how they worked. Von Gersdorff matriculated into the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, spending a year studying engineering before switching to physics. He then pursued a master's degree in theoretical physics at Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Fisicas (Brazilian Center for Physical Science) in Rio de Janeiro. From Brazil he moved to Batavia, Illinois, where he accepted a position at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, working with Larry McLerran. He returned to theoretical physics by entering a PhD program in Joseph Kapusta's laboratory at the University of Minnesota. Finishing in four years, he accepted a postdoctoral fellowship in high-energy nuclear physics at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York. He grew less satisfied with physics and found himself intrigued by the brain's workings. He took a summer course in electrophysiology taught by Gail Mandel, a professor at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and loved it. He entered Gary Matthews's neurophysiology laboratory at Stony Brook and earned a PhD in neurobiology. He met and married his wife in Long Island. He then took a second postdoctoral fellowship with Erwin Neher in Germany, where he began his current research in sensory neuroscience using electrophysiology to study synapses in the retina and the auditory brainstem. Neher encouraged him to go to Japan to work with the lab's main competitor for two months; this work resulted in a collaborative paper in Neuron. Von Gersdorff accepted an offer from the Vollum Institute in Portland, Oregon. He discusses the setting-up of his lab; his funding; the make-up of his lab; writing grants; and the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award on his work. His wife's career, which was in hiatus while their two children were still young, was in teaching languages. Von Gersdorff returns the focus of the interview to his laboratory: his role there; more about his start-up package; his management and mentoring style; and writing journal articles. He discusses his travel commitments and his teaching and administrative duties; he explains his positions at the Vollum Institute and Oregon Health & Science University and how promotion works; he talks about collaboration in science, especially international collaboration; he describes a typical workday; and he discusses the issue of patents. The interview ends with an explanation of the wider context of von Gersdorff's work, potential practical applications of his research, and the direction of his future research.

Zhaohui Xu was born in Suzhou, China, during the Cultural Revolution. His father was a supervisor of quality engineering in a textile factory, his mother a teacher of deaf children. Because the Revolution dictated a child's future occupation and education was not valued, there was no college; there was no academic pressure; there were few books, no movies, no television. Grade school had just two subjects, Chinese and mathematics. By fourth or fifth grade, however, things were changing again, and China was reverting to the placement-by-exam system of further education, beginning in about fifth grade. In junior high school Xu finally began science classes; he loved all of them, but especially chemistry. In high school he got a glimpse of an academic future; the top four percent of students taking the final high school exam were accepted into college; but one had to choose only one college before taking the exam, and if the college did not accept him, he had no other chances. Although there had been neither societal nor parental academic pressure on him, Xu always strove to rank first in his class, so he scored very high on the high-school final exam. He had chosen the University of Science and Technology of China for its good reputation and broader science base. In a five-year college period, one could choose electives only from third year on, and even then they were subsets of one's major. In his third year Xu began work on glucose isomerase in Wanzhi Huang's lab. Xu loved the excitement of discovery to be found in basic science, but because Chinese research facilities were so limited and unsophisticated Xu knew he wanted to go to graduate school elsewhere. Through CUSBEA (China-United States Biology and Biochemistry Examinations and Applications) Xu was accepted into the University of Minnesota. He began his rotations and discovered x-ray crystallization, so he entered Leonard Banaszak's lab, but also worked in the lab of David Bernlohr. During his last year Xu married his high-school sweetheart, and they had their first of two sons. Xu finished his PhD in three years and was accepted into Paul Sigler's lab at Yale University. He worked for a while on rhodopsin, but that was not successful, and he switched to GroEL and GroES. After six years there he accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Michigan Department of Biological Chemistry; he has since advanced to associate professor. He spends perhaps two-thirds of his time on the bench, working in three areas: determining the crystal structure of the trigger factor; determining the crystal structure of the cytosolic chaperones GroEL and GroES; and studying SecA and SecB. He has begun a collaboration with a Chinese lab; he feels that the stiff competition for college places produces better students there, and labor is cheaper. He also teaches and sits on an award selection committee; and he attempts to balance all this with his family life.

Frank A. Laski was born in Detroit, Michigan; he grew up in Oak Park, a suburb of Detroit until about high-school age, when his family moved to Southfield, another suburb. His father's parents and sisters perished in a concentration camp in WWII; his mother's family in Berlin obtained false papers to survive the war. Laski's father and uncle survived the concentration camp and were sent to Louisville, where Laski's father met and married Eva Marx, who also had moved to Louisville after the war. Laski's parents and his uncle moved to Detroit, where they established a prosperous heating business. Laski has one older brother and a younger sister. He had a happy childhood and liked school. He attended a summer camp each year from an early age and eventually worked at the camp. He discovered in high school that he liked science. He attended the University of Michigan, where he obtained a BS in general studies, a major that allowed him to concentrate on science; he worked in Ethel Noland Jackson's lab as an undergraduate. He became very excited about recombinant DNA and knew that his future lay with genetics. Laski entered Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his PhD He worked there in Phillip A. Sharp's lab, where he learned to clone adenovirus; spliced introns; and eventually passed his oral exams. After receiving his PhD he took a postdoc in Gerald M. Rubin's lab at the University of California at Berkeley, working on the relationship between P elements and germline tissue. He then accepted an assistant professorship at the Department of Biology and at the Molecular Biology Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he remains today. His work encompasses bacteriophage packaging; transfer RNA; Drosophila ovaries; P elements; oogenesis; and genetic mutations in Drosophila. 

Frank Costantini grew up in New York City, one of three sons. His father was a chemical engineer, his mother an artist. He was good in math and liked quantitative, objective subjects. He matriculated at Yale University, working on RNase Q in Sidney Altman's lab. For graduate school Costantini chose California Institute of Technology, in part because a girlfriend was going to University of California, Los Angeles. He entered Eric Davidson's lab to work on sea urchins; William Klein, a postdoc, acted as his submentor. The science in Davidson's lab was mostly biochemical and molecular, but Costantini thought it more important to know the "logic behind doing science" than what science the lab did. Costantini still wanted, however, to focus on molecular biology, especially as applied to mammals, so he went into Christopher Graham's lab at University of Oxford. His wife, Elizabeth Lacy, also did a postdoc in Graham's lab. There Costantini worked on deriving embryonic carcinoma cell lines to go into the germ line to make genetically altered mice. At first this did not work, but Costantini showed the possibility of getting into the germ line by injecting DNA directly into the nucleus of an egg, rather than into the cytoplasm. Then a new research field, his result has now become a commonly-used technique. Thinking about another postdoc, this time at Rockefeller University, Costantini was instead persuaded to apply for a job that had come open at Columbia University, and his wife took a job at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Although both are still working on mutations that affect early development, they no longer collaborate. At Columbia Costantini can do whatever he can get funding for. His lab is an exciting place, with much happening. He likes to figure out what can be done with a new and interesting technique rather than try to fit the technique to a specific project. He still works mostly on mammalian development biology and gene regulation. He says that embryonic stem (ES) cells can now enable mutations in all genes, and that his best collaboration is with Elizabeth Robertson and her ES cells work. Costantini concludes his interview by saying that his free time is dominated by his eighteen-month-old son. He also likes to cook and to travel when he can. He still loves the intellectual challenge of science. 

Roderick MacKinnon was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, and grew up in Burlington, an outer suburb of Boston. He is the fourth of seven children. His father had not gone to college, but he picked up computer programming on his own and became a professional programmer. His mother was a substitute teacher as well as homemaker for the seven kids and her husband. MacKinnon was always interested in science, collecting snakes, birds, and other things. Though his parents were observant Roman Catholics, the children attended public schools. After fifth grade MacKinnon went to summer school because they offered a science enrichment program that included giving him a microscope. He loved to look at all kinds of things through that microscope. He remembers his fourth-grade teacher as being good and a high-school science teacher being "inspirational." MacKinnon's first sport was hockey, but after several years he dropped that and turned to gymnastics. He excelled at gymnastics, competing at the state level, being recruited by colleges, and actually considering becoming an Olympic gymnast. Late in his senior year of high school he suddenly realized that he did not want to do gymnastics all his life; luckily he had been in honors classes and his grades were good. He decided to go to the University of Massachusetts in Boston and transfer the next year. He very much enjoyed studying and found that science came easily to him, so he continued his undergraduate work in biochemistry at Brandeis University. He loved the stimulating intellectual climate there. Unsure what he wanted to do after college, MacKinnon entered Tufts University medical school. He felt all along that he really did not want to practice medicine, that it was not science in the sense he wanted. After finishing his residency he quit medicine and took a postdoc in the lab of Christopher Miller, a professor who had known him at Brandeis. He developed an interest in ion channels, and he learned to play the violin. Here he explains how his childhood interest in understanding natural systems, his interest in problem-solving activities, and his ongoing appreciation for mathematics led to his decision to leave medicine. MacKinnon's willingness to teach himself new techniques and the practice of letting an experiment "speak" to him helped him learn from Miller the artificial bilayer system for studying ion channels. Observation is important in MacKinnon's experimental method, he says. He began work on charybdotoxin, an ion channel inhibitor, in the Miller lab. Next he describes the Miller lab's efforts to expression-clone a calcium-activated potassium channel and the mutagenesis work required to identify the Shaker potassium channel pore. He found that the active site of a potassium channel is made up of a linear sequence, and he explains the significance of his discoveries. From there he accepted a position at Harvard Medical School. Deciding to apply a structural biology approach to the study of ion channels, he identified the tetrameric structure of the Shaker potassium channel. Here he talks more about the decision to apply a structural biology approach. He turned down a Howard Hughes Medical Institute position at University of California, San Diego, which he regrets every time he needs to write a new grant proposal. Then his department at Harvard was reorganized. Although things were going well for him at Harvard, he spoke with Torsten Wiesel at a Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences meeting and was invited to Rockefeller University to give a talk. He loved Rockefeller and accepted a position there. Then he suffered the difficulties involved in moving a lab. His lab members did not want to leave Harvard, so he was forced to decrease the size of his lab. Miller warned him about the professional risks involved in focusing on ion channel structure, but MacKinnon likes to "jump in feet first." MacKinnon talks about his teaching and research responsibilities at Rockefeller; about recent molecular genetics work that poses new questions about channel structure; the current state of ion channel structure research; his collaborative work with Gary Yellen on potassium channels; and possible collaborations with other scientists. He tells how he began the biochemistry involved in ion channel research with Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences funding, and he goes on to discuss his National Institutes of Health (NIH) and McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience grants specifically and NIH support of basic research in general. He explains how one must write grants to meet the different criteria of the individual funding agencies, but he remains committed to his area of interest, despite funding pressures. He extols his wife's, Alice Lee MacKinnon's, ability as a crystallographer. He concludes by discussing the importance of being able to learn new material; the differences in individual styles of learning; the dedication required of MacKinnon's lab personnel; and teaching lab personnel how to do science. 

Michael A. Farrar was born in Washington, DC, where his father was a chemist for the Bureau of Standards. Farrar's mother, a housewife, was German, and Farrar and his younger brother and sister grew up bilingual. As his father changed jobs, the family moved near to New York City, back to the DC area, and finally to Madison, Wisconsin, where the senior Farrar joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin. By that time Farrar had begun high school. He liked to read and was interested in physics and astronomy, but not so much in biology. He crewed for his high school team and continued rowing throughout college. Thinking of becoming an astrophysicist, Farrar entered the University of Wisconsin, intending to major in physics and mathematics. At the end of his junior year he attended some lectures given by Oliver Smithies and found them fascinating. In general, he found biology better taught and more interesting at the university, and so he changed his major to biology; during the summers he worked in a chicken lab trying to manipulate genes. Having started the biology program later in his undergraduate career, he decided to stay for a fifth year to complete a senior thesis. During his last semester he was diagnosed with Addison's disease. Farrar decided to attend Washington University in St. Louis for a PhD in immunology. There he began work on interferon receptors in Robert Schreiber's lab; he won the Olin Medical Scientist Foundation Fellowship. He also took up bicycle racing. Taking advice from Schreiber and a number of others, Farrar accepted a postdoc at the University of Washington, working in Roger Perlmutter's lab on Ras signaling and B-cells, as well as developing a novel, chemical-induced dimerization system. He enjoyed new outdoor activities in Seattle, Washington, and continued biking as well. After Farrar had been in Seattle for about four years, Perlmutter moved to Merck and Company, taking most of his lab, including Farrar, with him. There Farrar was able to design his own lab, to interview and recommend for hire the lab staff and technicians, and to buy whatever equipment he wanted. He learned a great deal about setting up and managing a lab from this experience. He was able to continue his previous work there too, but he had to find new athletic activities, this time rock climbing and ballroom dancing. He also met his future wife, a medical student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. When it was time to look for a job Farrar had an offer from the University of Minnesota, and his wife was able to transfer her residency. At the end of the interview Farrar discusses his continuing work on STAT; the politics of publishing; ethics in science; the increase in administrative duties, with its corresponding decrease in time for bench work; grants in general; the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award in particular (and its annual meetings); recruiting students and getting his lab going; and patents. He describes how he tries to balance work life with spending time with his two children and his wife. He concludes his interview by discussing his newest work and its implications for human leukemia.

Janko Nikolić-Žugić was born and raised in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, which, at the time, was a relatively open Communist country under Josip Broz Tito. His father was an orthopedic surgeon and his mother was a researcher at the Institute for Cultural Development Studies. Nikolić-Žugić was interested in science from a young age, perusing his parents' extensive library and finding issues in molecular biology and the like quite fascinating. He went to his primary school for eight years before moving into a specialization in the natural sciences in his secondary school (Yugoslavia had a Gymnasium system). At the age of fifteen or so he became a competitive volleyball player, practice for which occupied most of his nights and weekends. While all of his coursework was intense, and while he enjoyed science, Nikolić-Žugić realized that there were no careers for molecular biologists in Yugoslavia, so he decided to enter the medical track to become a physician. He entered the Belgrade University Medical School and undertook his medical studies while still having an interest in the practice and study of science more broadly. He received guidance and advice from Miodrag L. Lukić and Marija Mostarica-Stojković, who studied immunology, to do some scientific laboratory work abroad in the United States. Nikolić-Žugić took this advice and went for a few months over a few summers to work with Henry H. Wortis at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts; this was Nikolić-Žugić's first laboratory experiences and influenced his decision to leave clinical medicine and pursue a scientific career in the United States. He received a master's of science while still in Belgrade, though his studies were interrupted by the civil war, and then a doctoral degree under Lukić, during which time he completed his compulsory military service, working on T cell development. After meeting and marrying his wife, he went on to a postdoctoral position in Michael J. Bevan's lab at the University of California, San Diego studying intrathymic T cells, and then accepted a position at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where he began his research on specificity in self-peptide selection by T cell receptors. Throughout the interview Nikolić-Žugić discusses his views on Yugoslavia, its culture, its educational system, its political structure, and the state of the country after the various social and political upheavals. In addition, at the end of the interview he discusses his experimental method; his wife's work as a flow cytometry operator in his lab; the science-oriented environment of his home; the necessity of animal research; and balancing family life and his career. The interview concludes with his thoughts on his own mentoring style; the way his medical training frames his research, the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in his work; the "illogic" concept of gene patenting; funding and its relationship to the direction of research in the United States; publishing; and more on science and politics in the former Yugoslavia. 

Robert P. Goldstein (Bob Goldstein)grew up in Massapequa, New York, the second of three boys. His father was both a lineman for the telephone company and a bus driver. His mother was a nurse. He attended public schools until high school, when he went to a Roman Catholic school. He did well in his classes, even obtaining a year's worth of college credit, but he had not yet displayed a special interest in science. He held jobs as a hotdog seller and a stockboy when he was in high school. He decided to enroll in Union College, originally thinking he would go to medical school. He liked Union and college life; he rediscovered his childhood guitar and his interest in music, and learned to play the carillon there. For a while he thought about a philosophy major, but a class in symbolic logic, taught by Jan Ludwig, and a class in embryology, taught by Ray Rappaport, persuaded him to use his biology major in research. While working in Michael Frohlich's lab, Goldstein was also manager of the campus radio station and worked in campus security for spending money. When Goldstein decided that he wanted to study embryology, Ray Rappaport recommended Gary Freeman's lab at the University of Texas for graduate school. Prior to matriculating at Texas, Goldstein spent the summer with Freeman at Friday Harbor Laboratories in Seattle, Washington, conducting research during the day and camping out at night—he continued this tradition at Friday Harbor in subsequent summers. His first two years in Texas produced nothing substantive, and so he switched from ascidian and snail embryos to C. elegans and began to see results. His data differed from the accepted scientific findings, and so his first talk caused him some anxiety. Goldstein went on to win the year's Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation award. For a postdoc Goldstein chose John White's lab at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology of the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England. No sooner had Goldstein arrived than White left for Wisconsin, but he left behind marvelous equipment, including the original confocal microscope. Goldstein also shared a 4D microscope with Steven Hird, who had independently developed a similar project on axis specification in C. elegans. His love of scientific discovery and enjoyment of his postdoc years led Goldstein to another postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, in David Weisblat's lab. Working on evolution of development, Goldstein and his collection of snails, worms and leeches met his future wife in a lab across the hall. They married after their postdocs, spent their honeymoon in Hawaii, and set off on a road trip to North Carolina, where Goldstein had accepted an assistant professorship. At the end of the interview Goldstein talks about his parents; his brothers' careers; his first postdoc, Jean-Claude Labbé; and music in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He describes his lab set-up and management (including a story about gluing his sock to his foot) and the way his lab writes papers. He explains his administrative responsibilities and his need for independence in his work, and the role that the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award played in his research. He discusses his grants, and he compares those from the National Institutes of Health with those of the National Science Foundation; he then goes on to compare funding in the United States with funding in England. He gives his definition of biomedicine, his opinion about the role of politics in science, and his praise of cultural diversity at the University of North Carolina.

George C. Prendergast was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the oldest of four siblings. His father taught accounting and economics at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia; his mother worked for General Electric until Prendergast was born. From a young age he was interested in science and scientists, reading about both in the World Book Encyclopedia Childcraft series, and in music, playing the piano, the alto saxophone, the clarinet, and the flute. In high school he chose to participate in a Saturday-morning organic chemistry class, which lasted for three hours. Predergast applied to and was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) in Philadelphia. As an undergraduate he read James Watson's Molecular Biology of the Gene which contributed significantly to his growing interest in molecular biology. From UPenn he went on to graduate research at Yale University, though realized after a year that his research interests diverged from the faculty at Yale, so he left with a master's degree and then continued his graduate studies at Princeton University. At Princeton Prendergast worked with Michael Cole, the discoverer of the Myc gene and gene translocation in certain cancers, before moving on to a postdoctoral position with Edward B. Ziff at New York University, in part because of Ziff's desire to move in the direction of neurobiology. After a few years in Ziff's lab, Prendergast interviewed at several universities but chose to begin a career in industry at Merck Research Laboratories, a company for which his wife worked. He stayed there for a short while before moving on to the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia to research farnesyltransferase inhibitors and programmed cell death. Later he also accepted a position as the senior director in the department of cancer research at DuPont Pharmaceuticals, thereby becoming the principal investigator of two laboratories. At the end of the interview Prendergast talks about the advantages and disadvantages of working less at the bench; balancing work and family life; the work environment at Merck and DuPont; managing his two positions at Wistar and DuPont; the comparative strengths and weaknesses of academic and biotechnological science; and his current research on Myc protein and signal transduction by the Ras oncoprotein. He concludes with his thoughts on the issue of patents in science; the advantages of knowing the history of science; scientific research in academia and the commercial sector and the nature of competition in academic and commercial labs; biological hazards; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in his work. 

Ann B. Hill was born in Melbourne, but was raised primarily in Sydney, Australia, the second youngest of four children. Her father took advantage of opportunities for returning soldiers after the Second World War and pursued a degree in electronic engineering; her mother worked as a teacher until her children were born. Hill was a voracious reader throughout her childhood; she did not develop an interest in science until high school. She had a number of influential educators in her life, including teachers, principals, and family members. Ultimately she decided to study medicine at the University of New South Wales. She participated in a summer research program in Robert V. Blanden's laboratory at the Australian National University before interning at Sydney Hospital with a specialization in internal medicine. She continued to train in clinical immunology at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, where she also worked to set up an immunology clinic for AIDS patients. Wanting to combine clinical medicine and scientific research, Hill returned to the Australian National University for her doctoral degree, working in Arno Mullbacher's laboratory on immunodominance and the cytotoxic T-cell response to flaviviruses. After winning the Oxford Nuffield Dominions Medical Fellowship she attended Oxford University as a postdoctoral fellow in Andrew J. McMichael's laboratory, researching HLA-B51, cross-presentation, and immuno-evasion. At the end of her postdoc, Hill took another postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Hidde L. Ploegh's lab to study immuno-evasion by herpes simplex viruses. This last postdoctoral fellowship proved quite influential scientifically and Hill continued work on immune-evasion as a member of the Oregon Health Sciences University. Hill used the remainder of the interview to reflect upon her own career, as well as various contemporary issues in scientific research and practice, like her decision to enter medicine rather than the humanities; the impact of her senior high school education on her career; patents and the privatization of scientific research; and competition in science. She ends the interview with thoughts about her family and the role that the Pew Scholars Program in Biomedical Sciences has played and continues to play in her work.

Mark A. Saper was born in New York City, where he lived for several years. His family moved to Connecticut when his father, an electronic engineer, took a job there. His mother had a degree in accounting but stayed home with the children (Mark and his two younger brothers) while they were still young. Then she went back to school and eventually began work as a data processor at Yale University. During this his father took a job in New Jersey, so Saper had responsibilities at home in addition to his schoolwork and Hebrew school. He manifested an early interest in and talent for mathematics, but his brother surpassed him, even becoming a mathematics professor. In high school Saper became a drum major, very interested in music, joining the marching band. He also liked biology, writing an exceptional paper on protein biosynthesis. After graduation from high school Saper used his bar mitzvah money to spend seven weeks in Israel.
Looking for a school with a good marching band and music program, Saper matriculated at the University of Connecticut. His freshman advisor was a professor of biophysics who steered him into chemistry; organic chemistry sparked his interest in biology. He worked one summer at his uncle's engineering firm and a later summer in Janos Varga's laboratory. After Saper and the University marching band visited Europe during his sophomore year, Saper found that he had to give up the serious pursuit of music to focus on science. He discovered crystallography in a biophysics class and decided to go to graduate school rather than medical school. He chose Rice University, where he studied the structure of sterols in Florante Quiocho's lab. He was also very interested in computers and graphics software, which he used to trace the polypeptide chain. He went again to Israel to present two papers.
Saper spent another year in Quiocho's lab until a Weizmann fellowship came through; then he went to Rehovot, Israel. His wife-to-be found a program in Jerusalem, so they were able to see each other enough to become engaged; they then returned to Houston to be married and then went back to Israel to finish Saper's postdoc. There and in Germany he worked on ribosomal crystallography in Joel Sussman's and Ada Yonath's labs. Next Saper accepted a position in Don Wiley's lab at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Harvard, where he was attempting to develop software to study human leukocyte antigen (HLA), working with Pamela Bjorkman.
He accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Michigan, where he remains today, teaching; working in his lab; publishing; working on the structure of protein tyrosine phosphatases and protein secretion in Yersinia; and balancing his work with life with his wife, Cindy, and his three sons.

Roger E. Karess and his two older sisters grew up in Great Neck, New York. Their grandparents were Jews from Eastern Europe, and their neighborhood consisted of other family members and people with similar backgrounds. Karess's father had a law degree but did not practice; he worked in a family business for many years and then was in insurance. His mother was a homemaker. Both parents were adamant that all three children would go to college. The older sister is a chemist in industry; the younger, after a dancing career, became a social worker. Karess discusses his upbringing as a Reform Jew; Europeans' attitudes toward Americans; racism and anti-Semitism in Europe; Karess' Jewish identity; and Roman Catholic influences on contemporary France. Karess cannot remember not being interested in science. He enjoyed the experiments in elementary school and reading the life stories of great scientists in Paul de Kruif's Microbe Hunters. His fourth-grade teacher noted his "passion" for science. In high school he took advanced science courses, and he attended a summer program for high school students at Jackson Laboratory; there he studied the effects of heavy metals on mouse embryo development and was introduced to reading scientific articles. He also attended a high-school science program at Columbia University. He was accepted at Yale University where he worked in David Ward's lab studying paroviruses. He talks about the difference between liking science and doing science; about his regret at not having taken more lab classes at Yale and about having taken courses in medieval Latin and art history. He developed an interest in tumor viruses and wrote a class paper on host virus restriction. He talks more about working in the Ward lab; about having worked on reverse transcriptase in the Ted Reid lab; and about letters of recommendation he received from Yale professors. He entered graduate school at Rockefeller University; he began early in Vincent Allfrey's lab so as to gain more lab experience. He then transferred to the Hidesaburo Hanafusa lab to study retroviruses. Here he discusses changes in his confidence as a scientist over time; his evaluation of himself as an undergraduate researcher; undergraduates in his own lab; his performance on his senior exam; his reasons for selecting Rockefeller for graduate school; Rockefeller's unstructured program; and playing softball at Rockefeller with Mark Rieman and jogging with Michael Greenberg. He goes on to describe Hanafusa as a teacher and a mentor and Hanafusa's research on tumor viruses. Karess himself sought to identify the RNA binding site for retroviruses but was thwarted by technical difficulties. Karess then talks about how William Hayward distinguishes between transformation-competent and transformation-defective virus cells; how Peter Duesberg's radiolabeling of viral RNA helps demonstrate the existence of an oncogene; Hanafusa's research on proto-oncogenes; how Karess seeks to isolate the src protein; and Raymond Erikson's discovery that src is a kinase. Karess was challenged in his attempt to identify the first known kinase and unable at the time to discover the fps oncogene. This leads to an explanation of the factors involved in scientific breakthroughs and the need to interpret data with fresh, objective eyes. He evaluates his self-confidence at the end of his doctorate. Here Karess gives his opinion on the constructive and destructive effects of competition in science and the need to take risks in research. He goes on to compare the structures of scientific research in France and the United States; the advantages and disadvantages of doing research in France; and the relative prestige of publishing in American and European journals. Karess accepted a position as a principal investigator at the Centre de Génétique Moléculaire (CGM) near Paris. When he published an article in Cell he encountered the politics of scientific publishing. He goes on to describe funding in France; the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and setting up a lab at CNRS; and his own funding. More discussion of the funding of scientific research in France leads to a discussion of Karess's funding in the United States and his opinion about the need for reforms in the way science is done in both France and the United States. Karess's research interests shifted from oncogenes to Drosophila genetics, and he developed an interest in transposable elements. He accepted a postdoc position in the Gerald Rubin lab at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, where he studied unstable alleles in Drosophila. Rubin's discovery of P elements revolutionized Drosophila genetics. Karess analyzed P transposable element function. He then accepted a second postdoc position in David Glover's lab at Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London. He talks about trends in assigning names to Drosophila genes and the names Karess and others created. Karess applied for his first academic position and accepted an offer from New York University. Here he discusses the people in his own lab. He took up studying Leishmania. Karess moved his lab to the CGM in Paris, where he has been studying the rough-deal gene. Karess concludes with an assessment of his scientific research.

Jochen Buck was born and grew up in Reutlingen, Germany, in the Swabian Alb.  His father was a teacher of science in the Gymnasium.  His mother, a housewife, came from a middle-class family of butchers, and Jochen might have been expected to follow in the family business.  Instead, he became interested in politics early, as a result perhaps of the Vietnam War.  Instead of performing his national service in the army, he became a conscientious objector, working with disabled youths.  His early interest in mathematics waned, and he decided to become a doctor.  But in medical school at the University of Tübingen, he discovered that he loved scientific research; and he added to his MD studies a PhD, with his dissertation dealing with interferon.  He worked in Ulrich Hammerling’s lab, where he localized cell growth caused by autocrine growth factor.  He accepted a postdoctoral position at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, working with Vitamin A and discovering retro-retinoids.  He stayed at Sloan-Kettering for a few years until accepting an assistant professorship at Cornell University Medical College.  He is now an associate at Cornell, where his lab and Lonny Levin’s share space and where he and Levin work together on adenylyl cyclase.  He lives in New York City with his wife, Chantal Duteau-Buck, and two children.  He has won several awards and continues to publish articles.

Michael R. Koelle was born in Los Alamos, New Mexico but was raised mainly in Seattle, Washington, the youngest of the family's three children. Both of his parents were German emigrants (his father as an infant, his mother during the 1930s). Koelle's father worked as an electrical engineer in Los Alamos until the age of fifty when he started his own business focused on electronic identification technologies; his mother raised the children on her own in Seattle while working as a special education teacher. Koelle's older brother, who studied medicine, encouraged Koelle to study science; Koelle was also very interested in pursuing music. His first laboratory experiences were during high school when he had the opportunity to work in the labs of Barbara L. and Stephen M. Schwartz at the University of Washington, Seattle. After completing high school he attended the University of Washington where he majored in biochemistry (after taking a course on recombinant DNA technology) and worked in Theodore Young's laboratory in his junior year. Deciding to continue his study of biochemistry, Koelle pursued his doctoral degree at Stanford University with David Hogness, working on hormonal controlled development and the ecdysone hormone receptor. Following the completion of his PhD , Koelle undertook post-doctoral research on the genes involved in neural function and on the mechanics of neurotransmission with H. Robert Horvitz at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then accepted a position at Yale University, focusing his research on G protein signaling and regulation and planning to expand his research on the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmission as a means of studying embryogenesis. Koelle spends much of the interview talking about the multiple duties of an academic scientist, like teaching, lab and research administration, mentoring, and participating in professional duties, and about his views on the practice of science in contemporary society, like, the issue of patenting intellectual property, the privatization of scientific research, competition and collaboration in science, the national scientific agenda, and educating the public. The interview ends with his thoughts on the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences and its role in his own research and scientific research generally.

Martin Latterich was born in Hamburg, Germany, though lived in Mönchengladbach, Germany until he left for college. His mother, a trained chemist who worked in quality control at a company that manufactured perfume, had a congenital kidney defect that required treatment, so Latterich spent a lot of time with his maternal grandmother, who was an accountant, and his maternal grandfather, who was an artist trained at Düsseldorf Art Academy and who started his own arts and graphics business. From a young age he was interested in his mother's work, like gas chromatography and atomic absorption spectroscopy, visiting her at her office often. With a proclivity towards science and technology, Latterich spent much of his youth performing his own experiments (with chemistry sets and the like) and taking apart pieces of electronics. In high school he entered and placed in the Jugend Forscht, a National Young Scientists Competition, with work on cadmium: he studied the toxicity of cadmium—when in ionic form compared to when taken up as an organometallic complex—in algae and in Daphnia (water fleas). Latterich chose to attend Durham University in the United Kingdom for his undergraduate degree, during which time he undertook an undergraduate research project studying pathogenesis mechanisms and crown gall tumors with Charles Shaw. For the summer after his second year at college he worked under John Boyle at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in Manchester, England on exonucleases: he wanted experience in mammalian-type cell biology/biochemistry, which he felt Durham could not offer (its strongest focus was in plant sciences). Latterich decided to stay at Durham for his graduate degree since he was interested in working with Martin Watson and on lysosome vacuole biogenesis. He met Randy W. Schekman and decided to go to his laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, as a postdoctoral fellow in order to research vesicular movements in intracellular transport. From there he accepted a position at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. After some time in the academy, he decided to move into industry to gain access to resources unavailable at a university, first working for Diversa Corporation and then for Illunina, Incorporated. Ultimately, though, he chose to return to academia and accepted a position at McGill University in Montreal, Québec, Canada, researching membrane-fusion elements required for intracellular transport. During the interview Latterich discusses his family life and his career, especially his wife and daughter; setting up his various labs; learning about the history of science; and the practical applications of Latterich's research. He also talks about his funding history; the process of writing journal articles; product development in industrial science; scientific collaborations between the academy and industry; and his role on scientific advisory boards. The interview concludes with Latterich's thoughts on the privatization of research; morality and scientific research; the role of the scientist in educating the public about science; science and religion; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in his work. 

Joseph Craft was born in Wilson County, North Carolina, one of three children. His father was a farmer, his mother a housewife. He did not leave the farm area except for school, a mile away, until he went the nine miles to University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill. Neither parent was college-educated, but all three children attended college. Craft's siblings became teachers; Craft did very well in school so was expected to become a doctor. He liked chemistry, liking the way organic chemistry was put together. Accepted at both Duke University and the University of North Carolina, he chose UNC for medical school, where he liked the way his professors communicated and decided he wanted to be an academic clinician. Wanting further training, Craft accepted a position as house officer in internal medicine at Yale University. For him Yale represented a transition between farm and city, the South and the North. He found his teachers interesting but thought they did not add to the body of knowledge, as he wanted to do. During his three busy years of residency he considered switching to research. After a further year in general medicine he accepted a postdoc in rheumatology at Yale. He chose rheumatology because its diseases were not well-defined and had few specific remedies. While doing his postdoc he did his clinical work in his spare time. He began by studying Lyme disease, but its cause and cure already known so he switched to autoimmunity in general. Craft discusses his early publications, feeling they were solid but not innovative; he explains how the Pew grant helped him make the transition from clinic to lab; he talks about his collaborations with John Hardin and Tsuneyo Mimori. He details his funding, in particular his first National Institutes of Health grant. He talks about competition, tenure, a typical day at the lab, and his administrative duties. Craft concludes his interview with reflections on the interaction between his clinical practice and his science work. He feels that autoimmune diseases are better categorized and defined now, and he hopes to continue his current work but to do an even better job. He believes that there is a good possibility cause and cure will be discovered accidentally someday. 

Alfred T. Malouf was born into and grew up in an extended Lebanese family. His father originally owned a garage, but he switched to a restaurant. Both parents and grandparents were wonderful cooks, and Alfred loves to cook also. Unfortunately, Alfred's father's heart was bad, so he had to retire from the restaurant. Alfred and his brother had begun working there when they were very young, and during high school and college they were able to manage the restaurant for their father. Alfred's upbringing was strict Roman Catholic, and his grandfather had a large influence on their family; having gone only through fourth grade he placed a high value on education and took the grandchildren to dinner at Anthony's Fish House if one got A's in school. Alfred cannot remember when he was not curious about how things worked, and he loved to take things apart, particularly clocks. He also loved the water, especially scuba diving. He had good high-school science and mathematics teachers, but he did not think especially about college. His parents and grandfather thought science was the only legitimate discipline. He entered the University of California, San Diego, as a biology major. He was fascinated by how the brain works, and he took literature and philosophy classes as part of his desire to understand. During Alfred's first year his grandfather died, a very large blow that helped Alfred focus anew on science. He took a class in pharmacology with Morton Printz, a class he found "phenomenal," and spent two years in Printz's lab. He considered getting a PhD in winemaking, but decided to study neuroscience instead, calculating that he could make wine later in his life. (He intends to do so when he retires. ) When he investigated graduate schools he found the atmosphere at Johns Hopkins University special, so he entered Joseph Coyle's lab to work on kainic acid. Next he collaborated with Ronald L. Schnaar to learn tissue culture techniques; this was lucky as it turns out that Alfred is allergic to rodents. Coyle's medical training added a valuable "bench to bed" dimension to Alfred's research. Still fascinated by how things work—in this case living cells—he accepted a postdoc in Floyd Bloom's lab at Scripps Research Institute, where he learned physiology and electrophysiology. From there he accepted a research fellowship in Philip Schwartzkroin's lab at the University of Washington, studying the physiology of the hippocampus. There he met a pharmacology student, Stephanie Orellana, whom he eventually married and with whom he has two daughters. Stephanie worked for Ellis Avner, a pediatric nephrologist, until he left for Case Western Reserve University; Avner has since recruited both Maloufs to tenure-track associate professorships. Alfred has his lab set up now, and work is now going quite well. His proposal for the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences award included his study of GABAergic neurons and epileptiform activity and the effect of zinc on the GABA system. He has taken up optical imaging of CA3 pyramidal cells and has become interested in Alzheimer's disease. Alfred finds basic science exciting, but he also loves to see clinical relevance; he tries to balance intellectual pursuit with societal goals. He also has to balance lab management with teaching; and the work of two scientists with a family that includes two young daughters. 

Jerry R. Faust began his childhood on his father's farm in rural Texas. When his parents divorced he moved with his mother, a nurse, and his brother to Dallas, Texas, where he attended junior high school and high school. When he was in eighth grade he took an advanced biology class in which the newly-discovered ATP was discussed at length, but in high school he "left biology" for chemistry. He loved chemistry, a field that was really taking off at the time. A high school chemistry teacher proved an important role model, and an influential school trip to a research laboratory confirmed his desire to become a scientist. Faust's chemistry teacher was also the basketball coach, and Faust played well enough to be offered a basketball scholarship to Stephen F. Austin State University. As he says, he went to college to play basketball, not to learn, so he rejected an offer from Rice University, as studying might have gotten in the way of basketball. At Austin State he declared a major in chemistry and minored in biology, soon developing an interest in biochemistry. He considered working in biochemistry to be a way to make a contribution to society. After graduation Faust took a position as a chemist. He spent a boring year testing materials before deciding to go to graduate school. He took a biochemistry course taught by Edward Bellion, and entered his lab at University of Texas at Arlington. There he continued to develop his interest in biochemistry. He felt he had certain advantages coming to biochemistry as a chemist rather than a biologist. After finishing a master's degree, Faust accepted a position as research associate in the Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein lab at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Faust describes Brown's and Goldstein's backgrounds; his role in the lab's work on cholesterol metabolism; and learning opportunities in the lab. He also explains their Nobel Prize for research into LDL. After being there for eleven years he went to E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company as a principal investigator in the cardiology unit. Faust describes the structure and research resources of the Du Pont Experimental Station and his projects there. He explains his professional satisfaction in designing and implementing research per se, irrespective of clinical applications. Faust's preference for following tangents rather than pursuing a strictly linear line of research led him next to the decision to pursue a PhD in the physiology department at Tufts University, where he entered James Fred Dice's lab. Being a student again was different and strange. Here he discusses how the need to meet funding requirements affects the direction of research; the value of funding sources that allow for creative research; and the advantages of increasing cooperation between labs. He continues with a discussion of Dice as a mentor; his own mentoring and managing style; influence on his research of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award; grant writing; and competition with Peter Pentchev's lab over work on cholesterol transport in Niemann-Pick type C disease. He has more to say about the competition with the Pentchev lab; differences between the grant review process at the National Science Foundation and that at the National Institutes of Health; science funding in general; and his lab's work on neuronal ceroid lipfuscinosis. Collaboration with foreign labs leads to foreign students, difficult to fund and difficult to place after graduation, especially since principal investigator positions are so scarce. He finishes with a description of how he and his partner, also a scientist at Tufts with whom he collaborates on projects, balance their work life with their home life.

Dimitar B. Nikolov grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, the only child of a mother who is still a chemist and a father who was an electrical engineer. His paternal grandparents lived with them and cared for Nikolov while his parents worked. Nikolov often accompanied his mother to her lab, and he feels that he is a scientist because of both genes and upbringing. He attended local schools (all schools in Bulgaria were public), which he thinks gave him a broader and better education than most American children get. He always liked physics and math classes and competed in national contests, doing so well that he did not have to take the entrance exam required of everyone else and could go to whatever school he chose. He enrolled in the biotechnology program at Sofia University partly to avoid compulsory military service, as permitted by the higher educational system in Bulgaria, and he finished master's degrees in both physics and biology. He worked in Peter Antonov's laboratory on plant membrane fusion for his degree in biology. During college he also met and married his wife, who was in the same program. After the fall of the Berlin Wall it became easier for Nikolov to attend a foreign university, and since the majority of good papers were from the United States, he decided to apply to a PhD program here. He chose Rockefeller University at first for neuroscience, but he changed his mind, switching to structural biology and working on transcription proteins in Steven Burley's lab. He describes the graduate program at Rockefeller; Burley's laboratory; a typical day in graduate school; and the process of doing x-ray crystallography. He talks about his graduate work on the structure of the TATA box transcription initiation elements. Meanwhile, his wife had paused her PhD studies to have their first child and then, nine years later, their second. She has since become manager of a lab at Rockefeller. After finishing his PhD, Nikolov decided against a postdoc and accepted a very good offer of a faculty position at Sloan-Kettering Institute. He talks about setting up his lab, its make-up, and his management style. His research has focused on axon guidance molecules in early development, for which he hopes to find practical applications. Nikolov discusses his funding history, the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant on his research, and his belief that collaboration between academia and industrial science is important. He explains his grant-writing process, some of his professional duties and teaching responsibilities, and goes into detail about his current research in structural biology on angiopoietic receptors and ligands. He tells how he writes journal articles, how he sets his research agenda, what he thinks of competition in science, and his thoughts on how the national scientific agenda should be set. Nikolov continues with more insight into his views on improving science education in the United States and the role of the scientist in increasing public interest in science. He concludes his interview with a discussion of his professional goals and his future research on cell signaling and communication in neural development.

Paul D. Gollnick was born and mostly raised in Pullman, Washington. For one year when he was about 10 (or else in eighth grade) he and his family lived in Stockholm, Sweden, where his father was on sabbatical. Because his father was a scientist, an exercise physiologist, Paul was, from a young age, disposed to enter science himself. Reinforcing that desire were hours spent helping his father in his father's lab, and a high-school chemistry teacher who also inspired him. Paul's mother was a musician and music teacher but was unable to interest any of her children in music. Paul was not adept at most sports, he says, but he did take up and continues to enjoy golf. When he was deciding about college, he had to stay in state for financial reasons; he chose Washington State because he believed they had better science programs. He decided to major in biochemistry because he had discovered an interest in biology as well as chemistry and thought that biochemistry nicely combined the two. Biochemistry majors were new around the country at that time, so he felt also that the field would be dynamic and exciting. As an undergraduate he worked in Bruce McFadden's laboratory, producing an enzyme inhibitor. Realizing that working in pure science would require a graduate degree, he entered Iowa State University. At Iowa State Gollnick had hoped to work with Stanley Cox, who was studying gene expression in HeLa cells, but Cox was not headed for tenure, so Gollnick ended up working for Jack Horowitz. In Horowitz's lab Gollnick worked on nucleic acids and tRNA. Though he was frustrated at having to use the old-fashioned nuclear magnetic resonance technique because Horowitz had declared, "No recombinant DNA in my centrifuge," Gollnick says that, "in retrospect it was fine." While at Iowa State Gollnick met and married Sandra Oppel, a classmate. Together they went to Stanford, where for four years, Gollnick did postdoc work in Charles Yanofsky's lab and Sandra worked for DNAX. Gollnick's research was going nowhere, so when she left the lab, Mitzi Yukoda gave Gollnick her work on subcloning and sequencing mtrb. With Yanofsky's permission and with TRAP (trp RNA-attenuation protein) in hand, Gollnick applied for faculty positions. He accepted an assistant professorship at SUNY Buffalo, and his wife was able to find a job at Roswell Park Cancer Center. Gollnick continues his study of TRAP in B. subtilis and his collaborative work with Robert S. Phillips on tryptophanase. He has since become an associate professor and received tenure. Gollnick teaches a great deal and likes it very much. He also continues to publish and to work occasionally at the bench.