Mark D. Van Doren was born and raised in upstate New York with his three siblings. Although Van Doren's father was a physician, he did not discuss medicine or science at home much; Van Doren's interest in biology developed mainly during the course of his high school science classes. He undertook summer research in photoporphyrin derivatives at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York in an attempt to further this interest in biology. After matriculating at Cornell University—a family tradition—Van Doren began research with Efraim Racker in the field of bioenergetics. While working with Racker, Van Doren was exposed to some of the complexities of scientific practice, including research ethics and the need for experimental replication and validation. During his time at Cornell, he was able to publish a paper in a scientific journal, an experience that helped him decide upon laboratory science as his career. After graduating from Cornell, Van Doren worked at Oncogene Science prior to starting graduate work at the University of California, San Diego. While doing a rotation in James W. Posakony's laboratory, Van Doren developed an interest in Drosophila; he then decided to pursue research on the biochemistry of Drosophila BHLH proteins for his degree, which quickly resulted in a 1991 Development paper. In an effort to expand his interest in and knowledge of relevant science early in his graduate career, Van Doren studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory taking a course on embryology. He did his postdoctoral research with Ruth Lehmann, first at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and then at the Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine. In the Lehmann laboratory, Van Doren began his work on Drosophila germ cells that had first piqued his interest at Woods Hole. His HMG-CoA reductase work led to a 1998 Nature publication. Upon completing his post-doctoral research, Van Doren accepted a position at Johns Hopkins University where he has continued his Drosophila research. He received the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences award shortly after starting as a principal investigator, an award that provided him validation as a young researcher. Throughout the interview Van Doren discussed his current research, the challenges of running a laboratory, and funding.
Yue Xiong was born in Nanchang, in Jiang Xi province, in the southern part of China, the eldest of three siblings (he has two younger sisters). His father was a forestry scholar who was sent to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution. His mother learned some accounting work from an uncle, and she supported Xiong and her mother-in-law for several years while her husband was gone, all the while suffering with the effects of nutritional deficiency. When Xiong's father was finally allowed to return to his family, he was assigned to Nanhu, where Xiong lived until he left for college. After he finished high school Xiong worked on the farm where his family lived and taught elementary and junior high school. When the Cultural Revolution ended and the colleges reopened Xiong was able to take the entrance exam and finally to attend college. He matriculated at Fudan University, which impacted both his farm and his community, pursuing a broad education until deciding to become a scientist. Xiong entered graduate school in the lab of San-Chiun Shen, at which time he found molecular biology in China to be out of sync with the performance of science elsewhere. Nevertheless, he had a keen interest in learning modern molecular genetics, and James Watson's book on the molecular biology of the gene had a great impact on him; he worked with David Ow on a nitrogen-fixation gene. Interested in the China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application program (CUSBEA), Xiong spent time at the Guangzhou English Learning Center (GELC). Subsequently, Xiong's CUSBEA application to the University of Rochester was accepted, and on Dr. Shen's advice he went there. Transitioning to American culture took time, but he soon entered Thomas Eickbush's laboratory researching DNA sequencing and transposable elements of the chorea gene. Xiong helped develop the mild-extracting method for isolating linealized and supercoiled DNA and he also worked on the evolution of transposable elements and the analysis of reverse transcriptase. He considered several postdoctoral positions, including one with Harold Varmus, though finally decided to accept an offer in David Beach's lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. He participated in a genetic approach to isolate G1 cyclinin mammalian cells; helped discover cyclin gene activation during the G1 phase; and studied the effect of p21 and CDKon cyclin. From Cold Spring Harbor he accepted a position at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looking at cell-cycle control and tumor suppression. At the end of the interview, Xiong talks about the possible applications of his research; the future path of his research; his lack of bench time; the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award; the impact and importance of technology on Xiong's work; and collaboration and competition in science. Xiong concludes his interview by explaining how he attempts to balance career and family responsibilities (his parents are still in China).
Jonathan D. Goldberg was born and raised in Hertfordshire, England, one of two children. From the outset, it was clear to his parents that Goldberg was talented academically and so they encouraged him from a young age to attend university. He went through the British state-school system and advanced rapidly through his studies; his interest in science began early, choosing math, chemistry, and biology as his three subjects for A Level exams. Although academically inclined, he also had interests and participated in activities outside of school, including sports, reading, and Boy Scouts. An influential teacher and some interesting lessons on DNA led Goldberg to pursue biology for his undergraduate study. He attended the University of Liverpool, where he majored in biochemistry and had his first experience with intensive lab work. Despite his focus on microbiology while at Liverpool, Goldberg's own interests drew him to structural biology. He subsequently attended the Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine and received his PhD under David M. Blow, in whose laboratory Goldberg enjoyed a great deal of scientific freedom; his graduate research focused on protein structure and x-ray crystallography. Drawn by John Kuriyan's (Pew Scholar class of 1989) more experimental approach in structural biology, Goldberg joined Kuriyan's lab at Rockefeller University for a postdoctoral position, researching the structural biology of cell signaling. James Rothman convinced him to take a position at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center at which he took a hands-on approach to his small lab. Goldberg's research has focused on intracellular transport, and he discusses how his research, which has resulted in a number of publications in prestigious journals, may further the field. In this interview, he also reflects on some broader themes that have affected his research and career, including funding, publishing, and, later in the interview, creativity, collaboration, and competition. Additionally he remarks upon how his own laboratory has operated, including his laboratory's approach to structural biology, his management style, and how his intuition has factored into his research. He also spends some time talking about being part of a two-scientist family, and how he has managed to balance career and family, describing his typical day in the laboratory. The interview ends with his beliefs about the ways in which the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences has impacted on his career.
Gregory S. Payne was born in San Francisco, California, but was raised, after a brief stint in Silver Spring, Maryland, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the oldest of three siblings. Both of his parents were scientists: his mother had a PhD in physiology, though took time off to raise her children before returning to a professorship in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and of Biological Chemistry at the University of Michigan; his father received his MD, then went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to study viruses and to the University of Michigan for postdoctoral work with Thomas Francis, Jr. , before accepting a position in the Department of Epidemiology at the university. Excepting the loss of one of his sisters to leukemia, Payne had what he considered a relatively normal childhood, playing with friends, and playing hockey, tennis, and the violin. Payne's parents insisted that he have a well-rounded education; he rarely went to his parents' labs. He entered the University of Michigan as an undergraduate and took part in an experimental program there called the Residential College. He took all the classes he needed for a degree in biochemistry but he concentrated almost exclusively on theater, particularly by his third year. Under the auspices of writing a senior thesis, Payne went to New York to study theater and then returned to Ann Arbor to look for positions in local theater companies. When nothing came from his search, he decided to get a job at a lab to make some money. He started as a dishwasher, but then was allowed to assist in making preparations for research into the movement of amino acids from the outside to the inside of the cell, specifically growing tumors in mice. He changed his major from theater to biology and decided to go to graduate school. He matriculated at the University of California, San Francisco in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and did a rotation hybridizing nucleic acids in John D. Baxter's lab, but then moved on to work with Harold E. Varmus and J. Michael Bishop studying RNA tumor viruses, specifically looking at how Rous-associated virus causes tumors. While there he collaborated with chicken geneticist Lyman B. Crittenden and experienced the lab's adoption of Edward M. Southern's blotting technique and other recombinant DNA technologies. From San Francisco Payne went on to a postdoctoral position with Randy Schekman at the University of California, Berkeley, trying to recreate in the test tube the process of transporting a protein from the Golgi apparatus to the vacuole, also developing an interest in clathrin's role in the secretory process. He took a reverse genetics approach, used antibodies to identify clathrin, and discovered that knocking out the clathrin gene did not kill cells, disputing successfully Sandra K. Lemmon and Elizabeth W. Jones's work. He then left Berkeley to start his own lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, researching proteins involved in cell transport. The interview concludes with his thoughts on the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant and the importance of flexible funds; his collaboration with Frances M. Brodsky (Pew Scholar Class of 1988); overcoming skepticism about the significance of yeast analogies; how creative scientists identify the most promising approach and organism to solve a problem; and the relevance of research. At the end of the interview, Payne talks about becoming a principal investigator and a teacher; training his investigators to withstand criticism; the importance of basic science research; the value of competition in science; his mother's career as a scientist.
Xi He was born in Wuhan, China during the Cultural Revolution, though he and his family soon moved out of Wuhan into a much more rural area. His father was an associate professor in a medical university—an intellectual—that was targeted during the Revolution. He's early schooling was quite "backward" and "simple," yet he felt much respect for his teachers. Mao's death in 1976 opened a wealth of opportunities for many and college became a viable option for He. After completing the rigorous national college entrance exam, he returned to Wuhan and attended Huazhong University of Science and Technology, where he majored in mechanical engineering. He's interest in biology led him to pursue a master's degree in biomedical engineering at Huazhong University, during which time he was fortunate to meet Dr. Sidney Sullivan. He applied to and matriculated at the University of California, San Diego for his doctoral degree, transitioning into not only a different national culture, but also a different academic culture. He chose to work in Michael G. Rosenfeld's laboratory at San Diego and pursued research on transcription factors in the regulation of brain development. He decided to continue his scientific life in the United States and took a postdoctoral fellowship in Luis Parada's laboratory at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). During his time at the NIH, He married and also began studies in the molecular biology of Wnt signaling in cells in Harold E. Varmus's lab at the NIH. After finishing his postdoctoral work, He accepted a principal investigator position at Harvard University where he developed his research on the Wnt cell signaling pathway in gene expression, regulation, and development. Throughout the remainder of the oral history He discusses laboratory management, competition, collaboration, funding, and his transition from China to the United States (He became a US citizen). The interview concludes with He's thoughts on the role of the scientist in educating the public; the privatization of research; gender and ethnicity issues in science; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in his scientific career.
Hannele Ruohola-Baker was born in Kullaa, Finland—a small farming village—the younger of two siblings. Her mother was a banker who always had an interest in learning, though did not have many opportunities for education earlier in her life. Ruohola-Baker spent much time with her maternal grandparents, since they lived nearby, and played with her older brother and his friends in the surrounding forests. She was always goal-oriented and did well in school; Finland had a very diverse educational system that provided equal education in all subjects (as much time was devoted to music as to science, for example). The local church was central to the community and informed much of Ruohola-Baker's early life. She matriculated at the University of Helsinki, where Ruohola-Baker developed an interest in the study of molecules. A dynamic biochemistry professor, Ossi Renkonen, intrigued her and introduced her to the practice of scientific research; she joined his lab and began work on studying particular carbohydrates in proteins. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Helsinki and decided to pursue graduate school abroad, ultimately entering Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. While transitioning to life in the United States and learning about American culture, Ruohola-Baker began her graduate research in Terry Platt's lab, but then moved into Susan Ferro-Novick's lab, developing an assay for cellular transport. As it turns out, David Baker, her future husband, was working on the same problem in Randy Schekman's lab at the University of California, Berkeley and both she and Baker developed the assay successfully on the same day. From Yale she went on to a brief visiting Fellowship at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, and to a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco with Yuh Nung and Lily Jan. Ruohola-Baker moved away from protein secretion into the field of developmental biology, studying Drosophila and oogenesis. From there, she and her husband accepted principal investigator positions at the University of Washington, Seattle. At the end of the interview she discusses her current research on cell polarity in Drosophila and possible applications of her research; the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding process; writing articles; balancing work and family responsibilities; and a typical workday. Ruohola-Baker concludes with thoughts on the nature of competition and collaboration in science; the national science agenda; the privatization of scientific research; gender issues and questions of race in science; and the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award on her work.
Mark P. Kamps grew up in northern New Jersey, one of four children. His father was an engineer, his mother a teacher until her children came along. Kamps's parents, of Dutch descent, belonged to the Christian Reformed Church, and religion infused the family's lives. Kamps feels that his life is now somewhat less rigidly structured than his parents' lives were, but his religion is still very important to him, his wife, and their daughter. He explains how science and religion can coexist peacefully, in his opinion, and the impact of Christian values on his own research. All four children were expected to go to Calvin College, and all did. Kamps's sisters ended up working with computers before becoming homemakers, and he attempts to explain how that happened. He says he always had a natural aptitude for math and the sciences and an unsentimental interest in animals and nature and how they work. Liking both chemistry and biology, he had a double major; he decided to pursue an academic career in biochemistry. He found the quality of education at Calvin College outstanding. Two professors, Felix Rottman from Michigan State University, and Robert Albers influenced his choice of graduate school. Kamps began his graduate career at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). There he became interested in Bartholomew Sefton's work in avian retroviruses. He had always been fascinated by human disease, especially by how cancer develops. After rotations through the labs of Russell Doolittle, Bartholomew Sefton, and Jack Kyte, he entered the Sefton lab, where he identified the ATP-binding site of SRC and discovered that oncogenic tyrosine kinases and cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase have homologous ATP-binding sites. He published in Nature. Here Kamps talks about his love of bench work; his relationship with Sefton; the need for graduate students to learn how to design experiments and do long-term planning; about identifying targets for p60SRC kinase activity; about his collaboration with John Glenney; and about ethics in science. Kamps accepted a postdoc in David Baltimore's lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked on transcription factors. He describes Baltimore's lab and its method of operation. He talks about the cloning and sequencing of the first chimeric transcription factor gene, E2A; about identifying oncogenes and their function; about factors that contributed to Kamps's discovery of E2A-Pbx1; and about how the discovery of a new gene furthered Kamps's scientific career. Next Kamps accepted a position at UCSD. He describes his startup package and subsequent funding. He delves into how he remains competitive in a competitive research environment, as well as into the advantages and disadvantages of scientific competition. He treats his graduate students well and tries to impress upon them the importance of scientific pedigree in gaining a position in academia. He talks about his plans for future research involving E2A-Pbx1 and the relevance of biological model systems in understanding human disease. Kamps reasserts his fascination with learning the mechanisms of carcinogenesis. Kamps prefers basic research to clinical and believes that it is important to have a diversity of projects in a lab. He talks about funding in general at UCSD and about his own funding, specifically the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Science scholarship; the elements of an ideal research environment; gender issues in science; working with students in the lab; and the importance of advancing science literacy. He concludes his interview by explaining how he attempts to balance family life with life in the lab.
Kenneth H. Britten was born in Washington, DC in 1958, the younger of two brothers. His father, Roy J. Britten, was a biophysicist who made notable achievements in the heyday of genetics, working at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and later at the California Institute of Technology. Kenneth Britten's mother, Barbara H. Britten, was primarily a homemaker, but who would later be involved in defending marine environmental causes in Washington, DC. Due to his father's strong influence and his early appreciation for the outdoors, Britten knew from an early age that he wanted to study biology. Britten received his BS in biology from the California Institute of Technology in 1980. Britten's interest in neuroscience increased greatly as a result of an integrative neuroscience course taught by Jack D. Pettigrew. Research in Mark Konishi's lab led Britten to neuroethology. He then took a year off to travel around the American continent before applying to graduate school. He matriculated into the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he studied receptive visual fields in David H. Cohen's lab and received his PhD in neurobiology in 1987. Britten remained at the State University of New York, Stony Brook to pursue his postdoctoral research in William T. Newsome's lab and later moved with Newsome to his new lab at Stanford University. Britten and Newsome worked together very closely, using psychophysics to map and measure the neuromechanics of perceptive visual fields in primates. It was through these projects that Britten developed his current scientific focus and research. In 1993, Britten was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at the University of California, Davis where he received academic tenure as an associate professor in 1999. Since his arrival at the University of California, Davis, Britten has focused on specific areas of extrastriate visual cortex in primates and how they respond to complex visual stimuli. Throughout his oral history Britten emphasizes the need to remain enthusiastic about one's occupation and the importance of balancing professional responsibilities and free time. He has received several grants, including a fellowship, and most notably a Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant, which he discusses in the oral history interview.
Michael D. Cole grew up in Ada, Ohio, the oldest of four children. His father was an insurance agent, his mother a housewife. He was always interested in science and nature. He was good at math and physics in high school, so he majored in physics at Ohio Northern University, never taking a biology class. Nonetheless, he found biology more attractive as a career so he entered a PhD program at Johns Hopkins University, starting in Michael Beer's lab. His thesis involved trying to sequence DNA using microscopy. As a postdoc in Ru Chih Huang's lab, Cole planned to study immunoglobulin but ended up working to characterize the myc gene instead. Cole took his first job at St. Louis University, where he used the tumor systems in a "survey" experiment with myc. He found the translocation and translocation breakpoint, publishing results in Cell; that were considered a major breakthrough in the study of cancer. He moved to Princeton University, where there was a good molecular biology department headed by Arnold Levine. He has stayed with myc since, still seeking the binding site, but he has two other related areas of interest: finding cofactors necessary for activating tumor growth and studying growth factor receptors. Cole talks about his personal philosophy; his style; his belief in the necessity for intellectual curiosity in science; serendipity; funding difficulties, especially for long-term projects like his; the problem of invasiveness of tumors. He hopes that in five years he will have found the binding site for myc. He wants to study the biology of the system in order to find out how transformation of cells occurs, but at this point he feels that the technology does not permit it; he will be going to Sweden to try using PCR. Cole concludes the interview with a discussion of the prints and postcards decorating his office.
Samuel M. Kunes was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1957, the second of four siblings. His father was a public accountant for the state of New Jersey; his mother was a school teacher who later became a social worker. Kunes was mostly uninterested in school as a child and struggled to find direction after high school. His decision to drive across the country after high school graduation brought him to the town of Corvallis, Oregon, where he would begin to realize his academic potential. Kunes attended Oregon State University until eventually transferring to the University of Oregon where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1981. During this time he discovered his own interest in the sciences and did research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Kunes then applied to graduate school programs and successfully matriculated into a PhD program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he performed research in David Botstein's lab and Maurice S. Fox's lab. These graduate school years steered Kunes toward the study of genetics, in which field he earned his PhD in 1988. He was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship in Hermann Stellar's lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied the nervous system development of Drosophila, using what was then the very advanced technology of confocal microscopy. In 1993 Kunes accepted an assistant professorship in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Harvard University and was promoted to associate professor in 1999. His current research at Harvard focuses on tracing the intricate steps and control of axonal development in fruit flies. Throughout his oral history Kunes points out his aesthetic approach to science and the importance of remaining interested in the craftsmanship of scientific discovery. He has won several awards, including the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation Scholarship and a Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant.
Charles E. Connor was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, spending the first few years of his life in Parkville, but then moving with his family to Towson, a suburb nestled in a wooded area through which Connor used to love to run. He grew up with some relatives who had a science background; religion also played an important role in Connor's upbringing (as well as later in life). Throughout his early education, Connor had an inkling that he wanted to be a scientist, despite a bevy of other talents and interests; with his junior high and high school science classes that feeling solidified. He attended Loyola College in Maryland and, after some time in various labs, chose Vanderbilt University for his master's degree in pharmacology. He attended the University of Maryland to pursue a degree in law, but after finishing law school, he realized that the career was not for him. Connor then entered the neuroscience program at Johns Hopkins University began his work with Kenneth Johnson. In the lab, Connor focused his studies on neural signaling for texture. He stayed at Hopkins for a postdoctoral fellowship with Gian F. Poggi and Michael Steinmetz, and then continued to another postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis with David C. Van Essen. Ultimately, Connor returned to Hopkins for a faculty position in the neuroscience department, where his research has focused on his long-term research goal: an understanding of the neural code for object shape in the brain. The availability of both funding and of students, topics Connor discusses at length, has shaped—and, he believes, will continue to shape—his research. While there is currently no industrial application for his research, he and some of his students have explored possible future applications, including a visual prosthesis and machine vision. His work in the lab, which historically included managing students, designing and overseeing production of new equipment, and benchwork, has evolved with the lab's growing reputation and Connor's added responsibilities, including teaching, writing grants, and administrative tasks. The interview concludes with Connor's reflections on another task that occupies some of his professional time, writing journal articles, and on the effect these publications have on his lab and his science. He talks about the role of creativity, serendipity, and technology in his research, and broader issues such as the national scientific agenda, ethics, and the public's view of science. Finally, the interview ends with his comments on the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Science and his happiness with being a principal investigator.
Paul M. Macdonald was born in Denver, Colorado, to a forensic psychologist from New Zealand and an American nurse. He has an older sister, who is a dean at William and Mary College, and a younger brother. He grew up as much outdoors as he could manage; uninterested in school and preferring skiing, bicycling, backpacking, and rock climbing to studying, he decided to attend Colorado State University's forestry school. During summers he worked for the Youth Conservation Corps in Colorado and then in California. Continuing his uninspired high-school pattern, he remained a poor and undirected student until his last year, when he had a class with Larry Hopwood in radiation biology. He loved the class and asked to work in a lab. Because of his excellent GRE scores and his lab work he was a candidate for graduate school. He went to Georgia Tech partly because it had faculty who interested him and because he wanted to distance himself from his usual outdoor distractions. He worked on bacteriophage mutant in Dwight H. Hall's lab to finish his Master's degree. Then he applied to Vanderbilt for a PhD in molecular bio techniques under Gisela Mosig; Lee Rowen taught him recombinant DNA techniques, and he finished his PhD He accepted a postdoc at Harvard, working in Tom Maniatis's lab. He worked with Gary Struhl there, identifying proteins involved in adh gene expression and with molecular gradient in Drosophila embryos. He went to Colulmbia as a postdoc with Struhl. From there he accepted a faculty position at Stanford University. His work included studying how molecules that control patterning are localized; comparing RNA sequences from different Drosophila species; redundancy of information in Drosophila RNA, and the role of chance in his mRNA oskar research. Macdonald has published many articles, continues at Stanford to run and work in his lab, teaches, and attempts to balance all this with his life at home with his wife and infant son.
Douglas J. Epstein was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, where he lived for about five years. At that time his parents divorced, and he and his mother and three older siblings went to live in Montreal, Québec, Canada; his father remained in St. John’s, so the two did not see each other much. Epstein’s best childhood memories are of summers spent at camp, with a week-long canoe trip at one of the nearby national or provincial wildernesses. School he found uninspiring, though he thought his education was relatively good. Because of the Separatist movement 70-80% of his classes in junior high were in French; in high school only about 40%. He did like his high-school science classes, taking as many as he could. He liked the order and logic of science. He spent his CÉGEP (Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel) year fascinated by tapeworms and the logic of their design.
Because his friends were all going to McGill University, Epstein thought he would go there too. Accepted into the arts division, he decided to matriculate instead at Concordia University, which had a good science program. There he discovered genetics. He believes that the small classes and the access he had to good teachers at Concordia were very beneficial to him, allowing him to transfer to McGill after a year. There he did very well and received an excellent education. He had expected to go to medical school, but spending several summers as an orderly at the Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, where his mother worked, convinced him otherwise. He had found Michel Vekemans’ lectures about Down syndrome embryos fascinating, and he decided to pursue a PhD.
It was customary then to get a master’s degree, so Epstein joined Vekemans’ lab, where Epstein used his Down syndrome lab work as his master’s thesis. He did not think, though, that he could go further with this research subject, so he decided to investigate the genetic basis of neural tube defects using Daphne Trasler’s mice, hoping to identify the mutation. Since Vekemans was moving to France, Epstein worked in Philippe Gros’ lab, and Trasler became Epstein’s de facto advisor. During his graduate school career Epstein published eight papers, five as first author. He also met his future wife.
By this time the neural development field was booming. Andrew McMahon moved from Roche Institute of Molecular Biology to Harvard University and offered Epstein a postdoc in his (McMahon’s) lab. Epstein then decided to move to Alexandra Joyner’s lab at Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University School of Medicine to work on sonic hedgehog gene expression in the nervous system.
After this postdoc Epstein accept an assistant professorship of genetics at the University of Pennsylvania, where his research continues to find new ways in which hedgehog is crucial to neurogenesis; he believes that this work will provide a clearer understanding of diseases caused by alteration in gene function and expression. In addition to running his own lab, Epstein continues to publish, to write grants, and to attempt to balance life with his wife and two children with his life at the lab. He has won numerous awards, including the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences Award.
Robert D. Nicholls was born in a small town near Melbourne, Australia, one of four children. His father was in the Forests Commission, so the family moved fairly often until Robert's parents divorced when he was a teenager, at which time Mrs. Nicholls and the children moved to Inverloch, a town near the ocean. Though they moved often, they stayed within Victoria, and all the towns they lived in were small. As a result, Nicholls grew up loving the countryside and animals. He and his brother collected and raised frogs and tortoises. Schools were of variable quality; his last year in high school turned out to have some very good teachers for his interests, already science and medicine. He attributes his interest in part also to his sister's illness, which kept her in hospital for six or seven years when she was a child. Nicholls wanted to study science, particularly biology, and he chose the University of Melbourne as the best school in the area. He found that he needed new study habits; he also needed a new sport, as he had quit Australian football and cricket, so he took up running, which he pursues to this day. During his first three years his lab work consisted of doing programmed experiments; in his fourth—honors—year, for which he had to qualify, he did his first real lab work. He worked in Barrie Davidson's lab on tyrosine amino acid biosynthesis in E. coli. He wanted to go to England after his fourth year, but the school year was different, so he spent eight months working, first delivering auto parts and then tutoring biochemistry. Nicholls won the Royal Commission fellowship to work in David Weatherall's department. He went to work in Douglas Higgs' lab to study genetic disease involving brain function; he had 18 papers before finishing his PhD. Finally settling on the genetics of retardation, in particular Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes, he chose Harvard as the best place to continue. He accepted a postdoc in Samuel Latt's lab because Latt was working with humans, not mice. He found Harvard aggressively competitive; when Latt died unexpectedly Nicholls left for University of Florida. He met Jacqueline Kreutzer, his fiancée, there, but otherwise did not find the support he desired, and he has now arrived at Case Western University as an associate professor in genetics. His fiancée, a pediatric cardiologist, is in Boston, Massachusetts, which adds to the complications suffered by two-career couples. Angelman and Prader-Willi syndromes are random and so not preventable. Nicholls, who is close to his patients and their families, hopes that since neurological diseases are not amenable to gene therapy, an understanding of molecular mechanisms will eventually be helpful in treatment if not prevention. He is working on the implications of imprinting, collaborating with Bernhard Horsthemke's lab. He continues to write grants, publish, and run.
Marcia B. Goldberg was born in 1957 in Boston, Massachusetts; the second of four siblings. Goldberg grew up in a very egalitarian family environment full of enrichment and educational opportunities. Although the Goldberg family was not very religious her parents still believed strongly in preserving their Jewish traditions and culture. Goldberg credits her interest in the sciences to an outstanding public education system in Brookline, Massachusetts where she grew up; she especially lauds her high school teachers. Goldberg attended Harvard University, where she received a BA in biology in 1979. At Harvard she developed an interest in physiology, an interest that she parlayed into a desire to attend medical school. She matriculated into Harvard Medical School, where she received her MD in 1984. During medical school, Goldberg traveled extensively, funded by an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship; her travel included a service trip to a hospital in Gabon. She also took a year off between her first and second years to explore the many aspects of medicine by working in various non-profit and volunteer positions. Goldberg pursued her residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she began conducting research on virulence factors of Vibrio cholerae alongside Dr. Stephen B. Calderwood. She then spent several years studying Shigella flexneri pathogenesis in Philippe J. Sansonetti's lab at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France. Goldberg's current research is still focused on Shigella flexneri and its modalities of mammalian cell infection and pathogenesis. In 1993 Goldberg was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She was promoted to associate professor in 1998 only to accept an associate professorship at Harvard Medical School shortly thereafter. Goldberg's current research focuses on the IcsA protein of Shigella flexneri and its role in actin assembly during the bacterium's infection of mammalian host cells. Throughout her oral history Goldberg highlights the gender differences that exist throughout the sciences. Goldberg is a Fulbright Scholar and has won many awards and fellowships including an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, a fellowship from l'Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, a Melini Award, and a Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant, which she discusses in the oral history.
Samuel L. Pfaff was born and raised in Rochester, Minnesota, a city of, at the time, fifty- to sixty thousand people composed, primarily, of physicians and other Mayo Clinic staff and engineers at International Business Machines (IBM). Dairy farming was a major industry in the area surrounding the city; Pfaff's parents were both raised on farms. His father received a baccalaureate degree in chemistry and went to work for the Mayo Clinic, first as a research technician, but then later on as an administrator of laboratories; his mother was a housewife and then an accountant. Pfaff and his younger brother spent most summers on their grandparents' farm (his brother chose to pursue dairy farming as his vocation) working hard and finding the work very rewarding. He received a public education and felt fortunate to have a fifth grade teacher who recommended him for accelerated academic work and to have a high school biology teacher who suggested he volunteer in a Mayo Clinic laboratory, subsequently contacting Dr. Peter Dyck at Mayo on Pfaff's behalf. In Dyck's neurology lab, Pfaff contributed to Dr. Jeff Yao's research on Wallerian degeneration (the degeneration of nerves after injury); he presented his work at local, state, and, finally, National Science Fairs and because of it also won awards from the U. S. Navy and the state of West Virginia to attend a navy-themed camp in Hawaii and a science camp in West Virginia. He decided to attend a local college for his undergraduate degree, matriculating at Carleton College—a liberal arts school about forty minutes from his home. Dr. Ross Shoger's class in developmental biology proved quite influential and Pfaff chose to pursue a doctoral degree in the sciences over a medical degree. He entered the University of California system for graduate school, studying at Berkeley with Peter Duesberg whose lab focused on how oncogenes function—working with retroviruses, RNA viruses, that could be grown on cells (mostly on chick embryos) which then led to a transformation of the cells and overproliferation—though this was slightly before Duesberg's public claims that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was not the cause of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). From Berkeley Pfaff went on to undertake a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental molecular biology with William Taylor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and then another with Thomas M. Jessell at Columbia University in New York, New York, working on molecular neurobiology and gene regulation of motor neuron development. At the end of his postdoc he moved on to a position at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, researching gene combinations for regulation of motor neurons in spinal cord development. At the end of the interview Pfaff discusses setting up his laboratory; the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award on his work; the role of the scientist in educating the public about science; and his lab management style. He concludes the interview with his thoughts on balancing family life and his career; funding scientific research; educating the public about science; the relationship of politics and science; tenure at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies; and his professional and personal goals.
Rebecca W. Heald grew up in Greenville, a small college town in western Pennsylvania, where she was the youngest of three daughters. Her father was a chemistry professor at Thiel College in Greenville, and her mother was a chemistry instructor there as well. Heald's father's sabbatical took the family to New Zealand when Heald was four; she learned to read there and still loves to read. When she was in junior high school, her father took another sabbatical; this time the family went to Australia. In high school Heald had a very good teacher of calculus and one of English whom she found inspiring. In general she found her science instruction lacking, even in the advanced after-school class she took. She was editor of and photographer for the yearbook in her high school, which included eighth through twelfth grades. Their parents always expected that all three girls would not only go to college, but would also get advanced degrees. As it happens, all three ended up in science fields, Heald's sisters becoming doctors. Heald and her family considered a liberal arts education very important, so she attended Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, where she majored in chemistry. The department was too small to provide lab work until her last year, when she did her first research project in Donna Brown's biochemistry lab. For two years she worked as a research associate for Sarah Hitchcock-DeGregori, helping her set up her lab in New Jersey, doing some real analysis, and publishing some papers. During her time in Brown's lab, Heald heard Bernardo Nadal-Ginard give a talk that influenced her to apply to Harvard University for graduate school. There she worked with Frank McKeon. Here she describes the graduate program at Harvard; McKeon's mentoring style; her work day during graduate school; and the process of writing her thesis. Then she talks about her doctoral work on the dynamics of the nuclear envelope during the cell cycle. She wanted to go to Europe for a different lifestyle and to be farther from her family, so she did her postdoctoral fellowship with Eric Karsenti at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, where her research focused on spindle formation. She describes Karsenti's mentoring style and the running of the EMBL. At that point Heald decided she wanted to be back in the United States, and on the West Coast, at a larger university, preferably a public school and one that was helpful and supportive of its faculty. She accepted a position at the University of California, Berkeley, and set up her lab. Here she discusses general issues of grant writing; women as principal investigators; gender issues in science; publishing; funding in general, as well as funding in Europe compared with funding in the United States; foreign students; and ethics in science. She talks about her role in the lab; her lab management style; her collaborations; and her teaching and administrative responsibilities. Heald concludes the interview with information about current and planned research on chromosome architecture and mitotic spindle assembly; practical applications of her work; and an explanation of the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award on her work. She talks about what she likes most about being a principal investigator and describes a typical work day, finishing with her leisure activities.
Stephen R. J. Salton was born in Cambridge, England, and moved to Australia when he was about seven. When he was about ten, his family moved to Cranford, New Jersey, where his father became chairman of the microbiology department at New York University. Salton attended public schools, and he remembers a good chemistry teacher. He had an early interest in biology, partly because he liked it and partly because his perception of science was influenced by his father's career. Although he felt that there were deficiencies in his pre-college science curriculum, he did have a chance to perform research one summer in the Joel Oppenheim and Martin Nachbar labs at New York University.
Salton entered the University of Pennsylvania to major in biology; there he found stimulating introductory biology and biochemistry courses. He had the opportunity to undertake undergraduate lab work at the Wistar Institute with James England and Michael Halpern who taught him the importance of learning to solve problems at the bench. He decided to enter New York University's MD/PhD program, where he did his PhD research in pharmacology under Michael Shelanski and Lloyd Greene, making antibodies for work on PC12 cell surface glycoprotein response to nerve growth factor v (NGF) treatments. He became enmeshed in the debate over basic science and clinically relevant research and the funding problems raised by that debate.
Though somewhat dissatisfied with medical school coursework, some of that dissatisfaction was mitigated when in his second year he met his future wife, Johanna Baeuerle. Also to his benefit during his schooling, Salton had a good working relationship with Shelanski and Greene who taught him the usefulness of collaborations between labs for meeting funding deadlines and the politics involved in collaborations. He then did a residency and postdoc in the James Roberts lab; balancing professional life and life with his family (Baeuerle and their two children) was sometimes a challenge. Salton had entered the Roberts lab in order to learn molecular biology techniques; he was later able to apply molecular techniques in an attempt to determine the differences between neutrophic growth factors and non-neutrophic growth factors. He found exciting the rapid evolution of molecular biology techniques into a widely accessible tool that can decrease the potential tedium involved in large-scale DNA analysis.
The interview concludes with Salton's discussion of some ideas about how to keep a small lab competitive; the political advantages of publishing in Cell, Nature, or Science; and the insular editorial tendency at the top science journals. He discusses funding; professional opportunities for science PhD 's; and sharing lab facilities; he continues with Mount Sinai's process of recruiting faculty to the new Fishberg Research Center for Neurobiology as illustrative of his own transition from postdoc to assistant professor. He ends with his beliefs about the effect of changes in the health care industry on medical school funding, his opinion of the proposed merging of Mount Sinai Medical School and the New York University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and regret over a lost opportunity to pursue clinically based research under Ira Goldstein.
Joshua M. Kaplan was born in 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts, the youngest of three siblings. His father was an academic physician specializing in hematology, and his mother was a social worker. Raised in a traditionally academic family, Kaplan and his siblings were expected to perform well in school and to pursue higher education. In high school Kaplan began his first research experience working under one of his father's colleagues, studying in vitro red blood cell development. From this point on he was inclined to study science and was interested in laboratory research. Kaplan attended Yale University, where he declared a major in chemistry but would later switch to biochemistry, working in Charles A. Janeway's immunology lab. He also met his wife-to-be, Jennifer S. Haas, there. Kaplan then matriculated into the University of California, San Francisco Medical School, where after his first year of medical training he decided to switch into a doctorate program. Kaplan did his research on cancer-associated src protein with J. Michael Bishop and Harold E. Varmus; he earned his PhD in 1988. He then pursued his research with a postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. H. Robert Horvitz's lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He had a hard time adjusting to the very different environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he credits his time spent there as some of his most difficult yet instructive years. In 1997 Kaplan was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Genetics at Harvard University. In 1997 he left Harvard University and was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley. His current research focuses on mapping signal transduction in the simple nervous system of C. elegans, in an effort to understand the workings of more complex nervous systems. Throughout his oral history Kaplan stresses the difficulty that academic researchers can face when trying to balance family and career, and the importance of putting family first. He has received many awards and honors including the Medical Scientist Training Program, the University of California Chancellor's Fellowship, and a Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant, which he discusses in the oral history.
Frances M. Brodsky grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. Her father worked at ETS (Educational Testing Service), a job he began shortly after the company was founded. Her mother, an artist, was a professor at Rutgers and director of the Rutgers Center for Innovative Printmaking. Frances had a privileged and happy childhood and adolescence, complete with good friends, supportive parents, and an excellent education in Princeton, New Jersey, public schools. Brodsky's seventh-grade teacher got her interested in biology. Somehow, with primitive microscopes, the students did microscopy. Brodsky's parents encouraged her interest in science, hoping that she would become a medical doctor. She describes her most exciting high school teachers as those who taught biology, math, French, and Russian. In 1972 Brodsky entered Radcliffe, her mother's alma mater, where she majored in biochemical sciences. Although she cultivated an interest in medicine in deference to her parents, she eventually faced the reality that "I fundamentally was interested in the principle, but not the practice of medicine." Through the biochemistry mentoring program of the Boston-based universities, Brodsky was able to work for three summers in Paul D. Gottlieb's laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Still planning on medical school, Brodsky applied to MD/PhD programs but instead earned a Marshall Fellowship to study at Oxford University. There she worked in Walter F. Bodmer's laboratory, where she began her research on monoclonal antibodies. After earning her PhD, Brodsky attended Harvard Medical School for one semester, but the practice of medicine no longer interested her. Instead she undertook postdoctoral research on clathrin and HLA with Jack L. Strominger and later moved to Stanford University for further postdoctoral research with Peter Parham, her collaborator from her time in Oxford and her partner. Becton Dickinson Immunocytometry Systems then hired Brodsky as a program manager; there she ran her own lab, performing basic research in monoclonal antibodies and cell surface biology. She learned a great deal of cell biology by attending the ASCB Annual Meeting to meet others in the field, ("infiltrating" cell biology, as she thinks of it). After four years in industry, Brodsky made the then-uncommon decision to go back to the academic world, taking a position as assistant professor at University of California, San Francisco, where she is now a full professor. Brodsky discusses the years she spent working at Becton-Dickinson as the ideal way by which to switch from immunology to cell biology while expanding the clathrin antibody research. Throughout the interview Brodsky discusses the changing issues surrounding funding and how that affects her laboratory management, the recent decision by the Board of Regents of the University of California to abolish the affirmative action policy, and the ways scientific collaboration and controversies have affected her. The end of the interview includes a note regarding Brodsky's pseudonymously authored first mystery novel.