Thomas J. O'Dell was born and raised in Berwick, Pennsylvania, a small, rural town (at the time, a population of approximately 11,000) on the edge of coalfields in the northeastern part of the state, the second oldest of four siblings. His mother was a homemaker; his father was a banker and, for a time, mayor of Berwick. O'Dell spent much of his youth like any other child; being in a rural area and having grandparents who lived on a farm allowed for a lot of exploration in nature; also, like most other children in the 1960s, he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up, though by high school he was starting to get more interested in psychology and behavior. He attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, located in Indiana, Pennsylvania, intent on being a psychology major, but then adding a natural sciences major as well. He became interested in neuroscience after reading an article on the brain and memory in Scientific American, and planned to go to graduate school for his doctoral degree. O'Dell matriculated at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, in part because of the financial package they were able to offer and, in part, due to scientists like Harold M. Pinsker, who used Aplysia to study the neuronal basis of behavior. He rotated through Ernest S. Barratt's laboratory, studying electrophysiology, but chose to perform his doctoral research on neurotransmitters in retinal neurons in Burgess N. Christensen's laboratory. After completing his degree he went to Bradley E. Alger's laboratory at the University of Maryland to work on calcium channels in hippocampal neurons, and undertook a second postdoctoral study in EricR. Kandel's laboratory at Columbia University in New York, New York, studying the cellular basis of memory formation and learning—specifically retrograde messengers in long-term potentiation and synaptic plasticity—and collaborating with Seth G. N. Grant, combining molecular biological approaches with physiological approaches to address research questions. At the end of O'Dell's postdoctoral fellowships, he accepted a position at the University of California, Los Angeles, working on beta-adrenergic receptors for norepinephrine and their role in synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. The interview ends with a discussion of O'Dell's role in the laboratory; his future research into the biochemical, physiological, and behavioral levels of synaptic plasticity and synaptic transmissions involved in learning and memory; the future direction of his field; and educating neuroscientists. O'Dell concludes with his thoughts on the grant-writing process; the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his work; balancing family life and career; collaboration and competition in science; the issue of patents; and teaching responsibilities.
Roberta A. Sanchez Gottlieb grew up on a cattle ranch about eighty miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, the youngest of three sisters, though, given the disparity in ages (five and six years older), she felt like she was raised as an only child, receiving so much attention from her parents. Her father was a uranium miner before becoming a rancher; her mother a schoolteacher before having children (becoming a substitute teacher thereafter). She was heavily influenced by her parents who valued education and curiosity, and had several influential teachers in school who contributed to her intellectual development. The family's religion also played an important role in her life. After graduating from high school as valedictorian, Gottlieb matriculated at Bryn Mawr College. Almost immediately upon entering, however, she decided that she wanted to undertake more rigorous scientific research and so she transferred (after one semester) to Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore also provided her the opportunity to continue her study of music at the Peabody Institute with Walter Hautzig. While an undergraduate Gottlieb undertook biophysical research with Michael Beers, focusing on electron microscopy. Based on this experience she developed an interest in microtubule assembly, leading her to work with Douglas B. Murphy during her junior year. Though music was certainly a profound part of Gottlieb's life, she decided to attend the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for her medical degree, conducting research on the MAP-2 protein. Marrying during medical school presented Gottlieb with the "two-body problem" for her residency (her husband was also a physician). They chose the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, where she completed a residency in pediatrics and a hematology-oncology fellowship under William J. Lennarz and Eugenie S. Kleinerman on immune response and protein kinase C inhibition; she also worked with Steven Buescher on neutrophils in the department of infectious diseases. After residency Gottlieb began a postdoctoral position with Michael Karin in molecular biology at the University of California, San Diego and subsequently took another postdoctorate with Bernard M. Babior, where she was able to indulge her interest in apoptosis. She then moved on to a position at the Scripps Research Institute. The interview ends with Gottlieb's thoughts on the broader applications of her work; creativity in science; her future research in myocardial ischemia; the issue of patents and the privatization of research; the role of the scientist in public policy and education; gender issues in science; and balancing family life with work. She concludes the interview by elaborating on the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences for her work and improving the quality of science.
Frank J. Rauscher, III, one of five children, grew up mostly in suburbs of Washington, D. C. His father was a cancer researcher with the National Institutes of Health at first, eventually becoming director of the National Cancer Institute; his mother was a teacher and homemaker. Because of his father's important scientific career, he was often fully aware of politics and science, even shaking President Nixon's hand at the signing of the National Cancer Act. Rauscher attributed his early interest in biology to being immersed in the field because of his father's career. He was a young teen at the time of the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. , both of which amplified, to him, the fact that he lived in a city at the center of internationally important decisions. Rauscher attended Moravian College in Pennsylvania. He was familiar with the college because his father had gone there. It was only in his junior year that he decided to major in biology. The removal of a large tumor from his chest helped change his mind about becoming a doctor, and an exceptional teacher's help in mathematics helped make a science career possible. During one mid-year break, Rauscher gained research experience in Sol Spiegelman's lab at Columbia University. During his other school breaks he worked in a chemotherapy clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital. These two different aspects of treating cancer solidified Rauscher's career choice; he made his final decision to be a scientist, and he devoted his remaining college time to science courses. Feeling that experience would stand him in good stead when he applied to graduate school, Rauscher entered Edwin Cadman's lab as a technician, where he did research on biochemical synergy as a means of killing tumors. While in Cadman's lab, Rauscher decided to go into pharmacology and began to prepare to enter a graduate program. The burgeoning field of molecular biology and oncogene research ensnared his interest, so he entered graduate school at State University of New York at Buffalo. He went into Terry Beerman's lab to study the interaction of drugs and chromatin. Then came the breakthroughs in oncogene research in the 1980s. Rauscher applied for a postdoc position in the Tom Curran lab at Roche Institute of Molecular Biology and switched from pharmacology to molecular biology. Research in the lab focused on the fosoncogene. Collaboration with Bruce Spiegelman and B. Robert Franza Jr. established a DNA-binding site for fos. The discovery that jun and fos form a dimeric complex and the discovery of leucine zippers in fos and jun spurred new work on transcription. Rauscher described the attempt to inhibit oncogenic cell growth, using transdominant mutant dimerizing proteins. Curran provided practical career advice for Rauscher, advice that helped him define a research focus for his own lab. He set up his lab as an assistant professor at the Wistar Institute. At the end of the interview Rauscher discusses the necessity of bringing in grant money and his strategy for designing grant applications; how seeking grants fosters "tactical science"; how he identified the Wilms' tumor gene DNA-binding site; the competitiveness of experimental science; the pressures on a two-career couple; and how he attempts to design a project that is both "hypothesis driven" and capable of producing solid results. He describes how he used technology from his research on WT1 to study zinc finger proteins and how his research on Krüppel-associated box and KRAB-associated protein was funded by the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award. Rauscher concludes his interview with his explanation of the necessity for a researcher to pursue new ideas and new fields of research and with renewed emphasis on the importance of continuing basic cancer research.
Nancy M. Hollingsworth was born in San Francisco, California, but spent most of her youth moving around—to Oregon, Panama, New Mexico, California, and, finally, Arizona—with her parents and older brother. Her father was a psychiatrist (and the reason for the travel); her mother was a trained dietitian who chose not to work while her children were growing up. Hollingsworth enjoyed school from a young age, a precocious child who loved reading, schoolwork (she would also play "school" when at home), playing cards with her family, nature, and music. In high school she had a great interest in literature, mathematics, and history, though did think about pursuing zoology as a major in college. Hollingsworth matriculated at Oregon State University and felt fortunate to have Peter Dawson as her advisor and mentor—Dawson was a population geneticist who worked on the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum and Tribolium confusum, and who also taught the undergraduate genetics class. Though maintaining an interest in history and literature, Hollingsworth began working in Dawson's lab very early on in her undergraduate career, doing crosses and measuring map distances between some genes in Tribolium. She completed her degree in zoology, moving on to a master's degree at Oregon State. She participated in a summer course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, working under the tutelage of Lynna Hereford and Mary Anne Osley and solidifying her decision to attend the University of Washington for doctoral studies (instead of one of the three Ivy league schools that accepted her). At the University of Washington, Hollingsworth chose to work in the lab of Breck E. Byers, studying meiosis in yeast, ultimately developing a mutant screen for yeast recombination proteins and subsequently identifying the HOP1 mutant; she also had the opportunity to meet Leland H. Hartwell, with whom she also worked. From there she moved on to postdoctoral research in Gerald R. Smith's laboratory at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, studying Schizosaccharomyces pombe recombination, at which point she also met her future husband, Aaron Neiman. She transferred to the University of California, San Francisco to work with Alexander D. Johnson on Hop1 biochemistry and HOP1 alleles. She then accepted a position at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and began her research on the recombinant promoter gene MSH5 in yeast and on the roles of the Mms4/Mus81 complex and of Mek1 in recombination. The remainder of the interview focuses on the topics of Hollingworth's lab, her mentoring style, and her thoughts on contemporary issues in science and its practice. She talks about the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on her work; her teaching duties; how she chooses her research projects; and how she balances family (she has three children) and career. The interview ends with her thoughts on collaboration and competition in research; the national scientific agenda the role of scientists in informing the public and determining public policy; gender issues; and more on the influence of Lynna Hereford and Mary Ann Osley on her career.
Miguel C. Seabra grew up in Lisbon, Portugal, one of three sons; his father was an ophthalmologist and his mother a kindergarten teacher. Seabra liked school and did well when school was in session. Political upheaval in Lisbon caused chaos in his school in his fifth-grade year, and Seabra's uncle, who had been a minister in a previous administration, was arrested. His academic interests in high school were in science and mathematics. Seabra's parents had expectations for their children and their careers, and his father had a great influence on his decision to enter medical school. While at medical school he worked under Fernanda Mesquita and had an internship in Turin, Italy. During his travels under the aegis of the Children's International Summer Villages he met the woman who became his wife, Isabel Fernandes Pinto. Soon after, he made the decision to seek a PhD outside of Portugal and was accepted into the doctoral program at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. His family was resistant to his moving to the United States; he had trouble, at first, with lectures in English; and he and his wife suffered quite a bit of culture shock and homesickness for a little while. Seabra was directed by Scott Grundy to Joseph Goldstein's lab, where he continued his research on cell cholesterol metabolism with Michael Briggs and Yuval Reiss and helped purify the geranylgeranyltransferase enzyme, though he chose not to write his PhD thesis on geranylgeranylation; during his graduate work Seabra published a paper on Rab escort proteins in Cell. Ultimately he transitioned to a postdoc and principal investigator position at University of Texas Southwestern, working hard to overcome challenges when setting up his own lab. After spending some time in his faculty position, Seabra decided to pursue his science abroad, moving to the Imperial College School of Medicine in London, England, for reasons that included funding growth in England, especially by the Wellcome Foundation; his wife's profession; and the language and culture. Core to his growth and development in the United States, however, was his receipt of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award, a topic that he talked about at length in the interview. The interview concluded with Seabra's discussion of a typical workday, a workday that has made balancing family and career a challenge. He has had little time for working at the bench, much less for leisure activities. Experiencing firsthand the extreme competitiveness that exists in the global scientific community affected his beliefs and practices about science. The interview ends with Seabra's opinions about ethics in science; the inevitability of scientific progress; and the impact of fashionable trends on the publication of scientific articles. He compares scientific collaboration in the United States and England, and explains his current research on prenylation of Rab proteins and possible applications of his research. He talks about the support he has received to cure choroideremia, and finishes with an elaboration of his personal and professional goals, an assessment of his achievements, and final thoughts on foregoing a possible Howard Hughes Medical Institute award.
Douglas R. Kellogg grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, the second oldest of four children. He had an early interest in reading, and took classes with several influential teachers. Kellogg first chose the University of Minnesota for his undergraduate studies, but after a summer job in Alaska, he transferred to University of Wisconsin, Madison. He always had an interest in and affinity for biology; between undergraduate and graduate school, Kellogg worked as a lab technician on Drosophila genetics, influencing the path of his future research interests and studies. There was no doubt in his mind that he would become a biologist. Kellogg chose to attend the University of California, San Francisco to pursue his graduate degree, working in Bruce M. Alberts's laboratory studying pattern formation in Drosophila embryo cytoskeleton. After completing his doctoral degree, he decided to stay in San Francisco for a postdoctoral position with Andrew W. Murray and researched the role of mitotic cyclin in coordination of cell growth and cell division. After his postdoc, Kellogg took a position at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where his research has focused on cell-signaling biochemistry in the coordination, division, and regulation of cell growth. In the interview, he spoke at length about the makeup of his lab and how he manages and teaches in the lab. Kellogg also reflects upon the role of technology, critical inquiry, competition, collaboration and creativity in his research and in his science in general. The interview concludes with a discussion of the role of the scientist in educating the public about science, and how this factors in to setting his own and the national scientific agenda; he also offers advice for beginning scientists, and reflects on his favorite scientific papers.
Patricia F. Ducy grew up in Lyon, France, an only child. Her father was in insurance and her mother was a secretary. She attended a very good school a fair distance from her home, so she spent much time with her grandparents who lived near the school. She had a happy, busy childhood in a close family who all spent weekends renovating an old farmhouse. She also loved music and studying guitar. Schooldays were very long and required a lot of homework, but Ducy was self-motivated and had no trouble doing well. When she was about twelve she had a biology teacher who inspired her to go into genetics. After high school, she wanted to go into genetics but had to study pharmacy and then general biology before she was accepted into Université Claude Bernard's PhD program in genetics. She worked in Robert Garrone's histology lab, where she conducted research on actin in fresh-water sponges. She expected to stay in France and do research, but when she heard Gerard Karsenty give a talk she knew she had found what she wanted to do. She accepted a postdoc in Karsenty's lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. Though she had published no papers during her PhD years, she published sixteen as a postdoc; one especially—on osteoblastic-specific transcription factor—has been crucial to the field. She went back to France to look for a job, but facilities in France were limited such that she could not have the large number of mice she needed for her work, so she decided to stay in the United States, accepting a research associate position, then an assistant professorship, at the Baylor College of Medicine. Ducy and Karsenty divided their research, Ducy taking her work on osteoblasts, seeking a connection between fat and bone; they continued to collaborate, and eventually married. Then they moved to Columbia University, where they joined their labs and some of their research. Throughout the interview Ducy describes the French educational and scientific systems and compares them to the American systems. At the end of the interview she talks about getting the Pew award and about the Pew annual meetings; she analogizes science to cooking, both requiring "magic"; and she decries the need to take time away from the bench to seek funding. She speaks about continuing her work on osteoblasts, with a view to preventing and treating bone loss diseases; she also talks about how she and her husband's labs are beginning to work on diabetes.
Kuo-Fen Lee was raised in Kaohsing, Taiwan where he (the youngest) and his four siblings helped his single mother run a restaurant. Lee had what he considers a normal childhood; in terms of parental expectations, all Lee's mother wanted was for her sons to attend university. Lee and his brothers all tutored other students throughout their childhood and so doing well on the national exams was not a great challenge for Lee. He attended the National Taiwan University and developed an interest in molecular biology after taking a virology course and working in plant virology. Lee then pursued a master's degree in molecular biology form National Yang-Ming Medical College where he researched cell-surface glycoprotein antigens in hepatoma. Wanting to continue his education, he decided to pursue his doctoral degree at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, which served as his first introduction to the experience of American culture. While at Baylor, he chose to research gene regulation using transgenic technology and steroid hormone peptides in Jeffrey M. Rosen's lab. Lee then moved to a postdoctoral position at the Whitehead Institute for Biological Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He worked on crafting a genetic knockout mouse to study neural crest cell migration during development in the Rudolf Jaenisch lab and, while there, he published in Cell, Science, and Nature. After meeting Story C. Landis and Wylie Vale and attending a Gordon Research Conference on hormone action, Lee accepted a position at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, focusing his research on neurobiological development, synapse function, and glial cell function. The interview concludes with a discussion of Lee's interest in comparing the histories of Chinese and Western science, his professional and academic duties, and his family.
Seth A. Darst was born in Virginia, where his father was in the Army, but grew up in the Seattle, Washington area, where his father built houses and his mother taught piano. When President Carter’s economic policies caused massive inflation and unemployment, Boeing Company let go many workers, and house-building was no longer a profitable business. Darst’s father moved the family to Loveland, Colorado, and started another business. Seth and his brother, just a year younger, were “typical” suburban kids, riding bikes, playing baseball, goofing around, sometimes fighting with each other.
Seth’s mother taught him to play the piano at an early age, and he became very good. He finished all the classes in his high school early and spent his senior year working for his father. He could not decide at first between music school and engineering school, but the difficulties inherent in a musical career persuaded him to go into chemical engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He had never had to study hard before, but he learned fast in college. By the end of college he had decided that although he did not like the engineering part of chemical engineering, he did not want to go to medical school, so at the last minute he made a few telephone calls and almost accidentally ended up at Stanford University.
A required undergraduate class in biochemistry, taught by Larry Gold and Michael Yarus, had introduced him to the exciting topic of structural biology. At Stanford he worked in Roger Kornberg’s lab, continuing his interest in structural biology. Near the end of his master’s degree he found electron microscopy and crystallography, his ongoing interests. He was given a Lucille P. Markey Postdoctoral Fellowship, so he was able to remain in Kornberg’s lab for an extra two years, just doing what he loved, until he was offered an assistant professorship at Rockefeller University.
Darst’s wife, Elizabeth Campbell, was accepted into the graduate program in microbiology at Rockefeller, so the couple and their new daughter moved to New York. Elizabeth finished her PhD and now works in Seth’s lab. Seth has progressed through associate professorship to full, tenured professorship, Head of Laboratory. He continues his work in prokaryotic transcription, occasionally traveling to Brookhaven or Argonne National Laboratory. He and Elizabeth balance their work with their family life as well as they can.
Timothy J. McDonnell spent his first six years in Indiana and Spain; then the family moved to San Diego, California. His father was a mechanical engineer in the Navy and then the Air Force. His mother had been a weather forecaster in the military during the war and then became a police officer. She gave up work to be a housewife when her children were born. McDonnell was always fascinated with the natural world, wanting first to be a veterinarian and later a herpetologist or an oceanographer; he even worked as a bat bander for a time. He attended public schools; his grade school was very good, but his junior high and high schools less so. In fact, he felt his performance worsened the longer he stayed in school, so after his sophomore year he left high school without having been graduated and entered the United States International University. There he majored in biology, which he continued when he transferred to University of California, San Diego, although his interest shifted from organismic to cellular biology, as exemplified particularly by an interest in the causes of cancer. McDonnell then attended graduate school at the University of North Dakota, where he taught anatomy in addition to doing his own research. He entered the John O. Oberpriller laboratory; there his research on cardiac muscle demonstrated that differentiated cells are not necessarily postmitotic. After receiving his PhD , McDonnell stayed at the University of North Dakota to study for an MD degree. Because he had already had most of the first two years' medical school classes he was able to be a research assistant, teaching anatomy and doing his own research. He decided to transfer to Washington University in St. Louis for his residency in diagnostic pathology. He wanted to specialize in pathology in order to combine research with practice, so he accepted a postdoc in the Stanley Korsmeyer lab, searching for cancer-causing genes in mice. Here McDonnell talks about how he learned molecular biology techniques; established that bcl-2 is an oncogene and discovered that bcl-2 functions not by enhancing cell growth but by preventing cell death. He discusses the concept of apoptosis, programmed cell death; the slow growth rate of most cancer cells; searching for factors which supplement bcl-2 in causing cancer; Korsmeyer's research background and lab management style; and the creation and patenting of transgenic mice. McDonnell continued to be interested in cardiac muscle biology. After his second year he married Sherry Wetsch, at that time a law student. Being newly married and moving to a new city and university was challenging during his third-year, but his fourth-year internship in pathology, diagnosing frozen tissue sections, went well and was well suited to his meticulous personality. Here he explains the technique of flow cytometry. Then it was time to apply for academic positions. McDonnell accepted an appointment at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and began staffing his laboratory. He talks about his start-up package and lab space. He shifted his research focus to prostate cancer. He discusses areas of overlap between his own and Korsmeyer's research interests; he goes into his focus on the regulation of cell death and how the disruption of regulation contributes to cancer; he explains his interest in bcl-2's role in regulating transmembrane traffic. McDonnell gives a critique of traditional prostate cancer treatment and discusses the therapeutic potential of apoptosis research. He believes he has insights gained by being a combined MD/PhD He explains the degree to which cancer is associated with infectious diseases and the role of the environment in causing cancer, explaining the difference between cancer cells and normal cells. He tells why mice are models of human disease and of biological systems. Mostly he thinks experiments with animals are ethical, provided they are for health benefits—specifically cancer—but he is a vegetarian.
Manfred Frasch was born in Holzgerlingen, Germany, in Swabia. His father was what we would call a contractor, building mostly wooden roofs. This business was begun by Frasch's grandfather, and the Frasch family has lived in that area for many generations. Manfred lived on a farm, where his mother did the farming. His father's workshop was also on the farm. He was brought up in the Lutheran faith. He had an early curiosity about how things work, leading him to chemistry and biology. After finishing gymnasium, Frasch completed his compulsory military service. He entered the University of Tübingen, where he majored in biochemistry. He also studied molecular biology at the University of Munich, with which Tübingen had an exchange program. His diploma thesis concerned gene regulation in Drosophila; he found Drosophila so fascinating that he has remained in that field. Liking the projects, the atmosphere, and the independence of Tübingen, Frasch decided to stay there for his PhD , using biochemical rather than genetic techniques in his research into Drosophila. He eventually learned cloning techniques and decided to pursue genetic approaches rather than biochemical. He worked in Friedrich Bonhoeffer's lab, where he had a great deal of independence. Wanting to see more of the world and wanting to expand his scientific horizons, he applied for postdocs in the United States. He accepted a position in Michael Levine's lab at Columbia University, working on the even-skipped gene. He had always intended to return to Germany, and he accepted a position as a research fellow in Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard's lab in the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, where his focus was on mesoderm development. There, work on S59 led to the characterization of tinman and bagpipe. Frasch was not sanguine about his career prospects during his last year at the University of Tübingen, so he decided to return to the States, and accepted a position in the Brookdale Center for Molecular Biology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. There he established his own lab, where he hopes to find clinical relevance for his mesoderm and heart development research. He began as an associate professor in the Brookdale but is now a tenured associate professor. He is married to Hanh Thi Nguyen, who is also a scientist.
George A. O’Toole grew up in rural eastern Long Island, New York, heavily influenced by his parents and their Irish and Italian immigrant families. Throughout his youth, his parents, both in education, stressed the importance of school and attending college. In high school he was especially encouraged by a science teacher who praised O’Toole’s interests in science oriented shows like Nova and Nature. O’Toole participated in a research program for high school students at Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., where he was first exposed to cell biology. Deciding he wanted to pursue biology, O’Toole matriculated at Cornell University where he earned a position in the Cornell Tradition scholarship program. Throughout his time at Cornell he balanced his studies with his work in the Noyes dining hall. Early on O’Toole engaged in extra laboratory research and had a paper accepted to the Cornell Undergraduate Journal of Science. He worked as a dishwasher in the microbiology research laboratory of Steven H. Zinder, though ultimately conducting research on methanogenic archaea. After graduating from Cornell, O’Toole began his graduate research as Jorge C. Escalante-Semerena’s first graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, focusing his research on the genetics and biosynthesis of Vitamin B12; during what little free time he had, O’Toole became active in political campaigns. In the small Vitamin B12 field, he published nine papers, learning the process of writing a scientific paper directly from Escalante-Semerena. Upon finishing his PhD, O’Toole undertook his post-doctoral research with Roberto Kolter at Harvard Medical School, where he began his work in biofilms. While in the Kolter laboratory, O’Toole took advantage of the inquisitive scientific atmosphere and intellectual freedom fostered in the group to make his mark in this field. Although he considered working in biotechnology companies, O’Toole accepted a position at Dartmouth Medical School and opted to work as a consultant for his friend’s company, Microbia. As soon as he started his lab, O’Toole immediately began efforts to create an environment that fostered success and creativity in his students. Shortly after arriving at Dartmouth, O’Toole received a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences award from which have come numerous collaborations and a networking system. Throughout the interview O’Toole discusses the current climate of funding, mentoring, scientific ethics, and the importance of translational research with regard to scientific responsibility.
Daniel E. Gottschling and his younger sister were born in Gary, Indiana. Their father was first an engineer and then in middle management at Bell Systems; their mother was an architect until she had children. Daniel attended a Lutheran school until the family moved when Daniel was in junior high school. Woods near his house provided free-time entertainment; there he began his interest in science by collecting spiders. Both sets of grandparents lived nearby, and the families were very close. Daniel spent a great deal of time with adults, listening to their stories and absorbing their experiences (and incidentally learning to shoot pool). When Daniel was beginning junior high school the family moved to nearby Portage, Indiana, where Daniel began public school. Although he did not like school and was often sick, he did well, especially in science and mathematics. In eighth grade he had a wonderful biology teacher who knew about spiders, but otherwise Daniel was academically uninspired. He took up violin, began singing in a choir, and acted in all his high school plays. He and two friends formed a rock band that did very well, even playing at Earl of Old Town in Chicago, backup for Steve Goodman. Not sure where to go to college, he visited a friend at Augustana College and decided to go there. He had to drop out of his rock band, but at college he immediately joined a choir, which practiced every day and travelled all over the world, and formed another rock band, all while studying and engaging in philosophical and historical discussions with faculty and fellow students. His chemistry and mathematics classes were excellent, and he chose chemistry as his major. He did not think much about where this was all leading until near the end of college, when he decided he did not want to be a doctor and might want to be a scientist. He was accepted into graduate school at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He helped new faculty member Thomas Cech set up his lab and set to work there. When Gottschling blew up the microwave in the lab and when his experiments were not working out well, he was discouraged and accepted a one-year job at Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison, Colorado, where he taught introductory chemistry. He liked teaching, but found that he liked the bench better and went back to Cech's lab to work on ciliate chromosomes, finally focusing on telomeres. When he saw Seattle he loved it and accepted a postdoc at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, working on ciliate telomeres in Virginia Zakian's yeast genetics lab. Eventually Gottschling accepted an assistant and then an associate professorship at the University of Chicago, leaving behind his ciliates and moving into yeast and epigenetics. After seven years he opted for less teaching and more bench work at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where he continues his research on yeast, believing that if one starts at one end and burrows through to the other end of something he can learn how that something works. Gottschling has won the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences Award and the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology. He still loves music, though he has less time for it than he would like. He teaches in the Science-Education-Partnership (SEP), run by Barbara Berg. And, of course, he continues his beloved benchwork.
Pradip Raychaudhuri grew up in Calcutta (Kolkata), India, the oldest of seven children. His father was a pharmacist, his mother a housewife. As a youngster he played cricket and soccer and followed the professional teams. His father wanted him to be a surgeon, but he was more interested in mathematics and the physical sciences. Raychaudhuri's maternal grandfather influenced him greatly in mathematics, working problems with him from an early age. His father inspired his interest in the Hindu religion and in philosophy, believing that Hinduism and science are compatible. Reading about scientists engaged his interest in being a scientist, and he performed well at school in the subjects he liked. Because he felt that the Indian system of graduate education was not as good as in the United States, he decided to study here. Raychaudhuri applied to several universities in the United States; he chose Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in part because he had heard talks from an Indian and an American who were at Einstein. He began studying protein synthesis in Umadas Maitra's lab, working in the lab around the clock. As an undergraduate he had been interested in cancer research, and he shifted back to it from enzymology. Homesick at first, he struggled with American culture in addition to finding the program at Einstein rigorous. He met his wife, Srilata Bagchi, a postdoc at Einstein, and they married after he completed his thesis defense. Raychaudhuri accepted a postdoc in the Joseph R. Nevins lab at Rockefeller University. There he showed that E1A activates transcription factors by removing tumor suppressors. Working in a competitive field, Raychaudhuri had to devise research projects that would enable him to compete against larger labs. He began studying the E2F-Rb complex's relationship to tumor suppressors and investigating whether replication gene expression is regulated through damaged DNA binding. Drug resistance in cancer patients was an important stimulus to Raychaudhuri's desire to find clinical applications for his research. Explaining his failure to obtain funding to determine an RNA-binding protein's relationship to Rb led to a discussion of grant writing, of the balance between clinical and basic science, and of his recent funding history and future funding prospects. After three years as a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University Raychaudhuri accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Illinois College of Medicine; he has since received tenure. He concluded the interview talking about taking his daughter to the lab; his reasons for remaining in the United States; the need to publicize one's science; the quality of graduate students and postdocs at Illinois; the need for the university to improve the quality of its scientists and research; and his definition of good science. The interview ended with an explanation of the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences funding and annual meeting on his career.
Christine E. Holt was born and raised in Wylam, a small village in Northumberland in the north of England, the youngest of three siblings. Her mother was a homemaker; her father was a naval sea captain during World War II, who then worked in the safe business and then the shipping business. She enjoyed exploring nature surrounding her home with her older brother, spending some time badger-watching, and she also played the piano. She attended British public schools (the equivalent of American private schools), and at the age of ten she was enrolled in a boarding school in which she stayed until she was sixteen. She enjoyed sports, including rounders and netball, and in school she split her focus between literature and the arts, and biology, but not other sciences; she had an interest in anthropology as well that was heightened by two trips to Africa during summer holidays. Holt's biology teacher at her college preparatory school taught with an outdated syllabus and so Holt decided to teach herself biology using Michael B. V. Roberts's textbook, Biology: A Functional Approach. She matriculated at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to study zoology but then transferred to the University of Sussex, where she had opportunities to talk directly with professors like John Maynard Smith and was under the tutelage of Michael F. Land who encouraged her to undertake graduate studies. She received a very competitive Science Research Council fellowship for her doctoral studies and chose to work with John H. Scholes at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Cell Biophysics Unit in an attempt to unify her interests in genetics and neurobiology. At the MRC Holt faced challenges establishing Xenopus lines, though she was able to use radioactively-labeled amino acids to trace axon development. William A. Harris introduced her to the concept of using an electrophysiological mapping system with Xenopus, after which she decided to undertake her postdoctoral studies with him at the University of California, San Diego (and, subsequently, they married). Her research focus in Harris's lab was, predominantly, disproving the mechanospatial theory of brain development and contributing to the reaffirmation of Roger W. Sperry's chemoaffinity theory, which argued that every cell in the retina was specified with a different tag that matched a complementary tag in the tectum. From there she went on to another fellowship with Colin Blakemore at Oxford University to study mammalian cell development, through which she realized the impracticality of using hamsters to investigate early brain development and also the inability to demonstrate axon—tectum chemoaffinity in chicken culture. She then returned to San Diego as a researcher and, later, a professor. Soon after her fellowships and her return to San Diego, Holt and Harris spent a sabbatical with Friedrich Bonhoeffer at the Max-Plank-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie in Tübingen, Germany, where Holt used time-lapsed video to observe Xenopus retinal axon in vivo and she investigated the possibility of guidepost cells in brain development. Soon after her return to San Diego, Holt received the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award, with which she worked on developing the method of in vivo lipofection. At the end of the interview Holt talks about her work on the effects of perturbation of cell adhesion molecules on axon growth; establishing a lab; spending a year with John Gurdon at the Wellcome Cancer Research Campaign Institute in Cambridge, England; the journal review process; and balancing her career and family life and issues that women in the sciences face. The interview concludes with more of Holt's thoughts on science including the discovery that fibroblast growth factor (FGF) can prevent axons from recognizing their target; growth factor receptors' role in target recognition; and the connection of glycosaminoglycans to FGF receptor function.
Charles N. Serhan grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the older of two children. His father, who retired early from shipping work, is of Lebanese descent, his mother Italian. When he was in junior high school, Serhan learned to play the vibraphone and played professionally for a year before college. Although he loved music and fantasized a musical career, he did not like the life of a musician. He had always liked and done well in science, so he decided to enter university, but he continued to play the vibraphone as well. He chose to specialize in biomedical science.
Serhan did his undergraduate work at State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he studied biochemistry and immunohistochemistry, doing research on cell separation. Michael Heidelberger persuaded Serhan to go to graduate school at New York University and to work in the lab of Gerald Weissmann. Serhan spent a summer working with Weissmann at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. Weissmann's interest in the role of neutrophils in inflammation led to Serhan's doctoral research on neutrophil remodeling.
After finishing his PhD Serhan took a visiting scientist position at the Karolinska Institute. There he met his future wife, Birgitta Schmidt, who now has a career as a dermatopathologist also at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Serhan was influenced by mentors Helen M. Korchak, Manfred Karnovsky, and Aaron J. Marcus and by reading The Art of Scientific Investigation and Men Like Gods. Michael Heidelberger gave him advice on how to be a good scientist and on the need to conduct both safe and risky experiments. He collaborated with James L. Madarain studying white cells' interaction with epithelial cells: he was trying to accelerate the healing of wounds. A family illness gave Serhan a more personal appreciation for the value of research and increased his desire to produce something with a clinical application. Serhan's research on the interaction of monosodium urate crystals and human neutrophils in platelets led to the discovery of tetraene compounds; he also continued his research on the lipoxinsand their role in regulating inflammation and on intracellular communication channels. He studied lipoxins in trout and describes the accidental discovery of trout lipoxin, discussing the pharmacological potential of the research and the relationship between science and technology.
The interview ends with a discussion of how Serhan advises young scientists to pursue their own interests, citing serendipitous findings that have had implications for the study of inflammation; how he believes that the funding of American science inhibits creativity; and that pharmacology is a basic but neglected discipline. Serhan talks more about his interest in the structural elucidation of cellular messengers; the biological action of lipoxins; the role of monocytes in inflammation; and his examinations of aspirin-sensitive asthmatics with Bruce Levy. Serhan says that today's scientists lead pressured lives, and it is a mistake to evaluate scientists by the number of grants they receive or by the size of their laboratories. He feels the need to tackle long-term research projects, projects that require long-term funding.
Serhan was invited to see Barbara McClintock accept her Nobel Prize, and he talks about Nobel Prize winners as role models. He mentions his lab members Jane Maddox, Joan Claria, and Boshkar Jacobodi; he encourages minority students to become scientists. Serhan concludes his interview with a discussion of the difficulty of balancing family life and work life, especially in a two-career family.
Maurice J. Kernan was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, the eldest of four siblings. His father worked for an insurance company; his mother was a housewife. A love of and interest in nature was nurtured during trips to a nearby area of salt marsh and sand dunes, known as Bull Island, where he explored and watched birds (many of his science projects in school were nature-based and came from his time there); he was also an avid reader, a sailor, and interested in cartography. Kernan began in public school but then switched to a Jesuit school around the time he was eight years old, staying there until he graduated. He matriculated at Trinity College in his hometown, intent on pursuing the biological sciences for his undergraduate education. While there, he developed an interest in genetics and was given a unique opportunity to conduct summer research with a Trinity alumnus, Mittur Jagadish, on the Cornell University campus in the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. Kernan's project focused on nitrogen fixation done by a symbiotic bacterium, Rhizobium, in the root nodules of legume plants, specifically trying to isolate the rec-A gene from that bacterium by complementation—testing transformed, rec-A deficient E. coli with bits of Rhizobium DNA. While at Cornell he also heard a lecture from Allan C. Spradling, who, with Gerald M. Rubin, had just figured out how to make transgenic Drosophila with P elements. After earning his degree, he moved to the United States for graduate research in genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, joining Barry Ganetzky's Drosophila laboratory; his doctoral research led to a pair of Cell papers in the early 1990s. Kernan undertook postdoctoral work in Drosophila on mechanotransduction with Charles S. Zuker (Pew Scholar Class of 1988) at the University of California, San Diego, and from there he accepted a faculty position at SUNY Stony Brook. At the end of the interview Kernan discusses setting up his laboratory and research program and learning to be a laboratory manager. He also discusses funding, teaching, balancing family life with his career, competition and collaboration, the nation's scientific agenda, and the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.
Andrew Camilli was born in Lima, Ohio, a factory town, the fifth of seven children. After Andrew's birth, the family moved to Flint, Michigan, where his father worked as a banker. Camilli's parents were both quite influential in his intellectual development, both being proponents of obtaining a good education. His father's broad interests also introduced Andrew to science at a young age. He attended a public grammar school and then a parochial high school while in Flint, reading about science, being interested in and playing sports (though not for high school teams). He enrolled at the University of Michigan, Flint, intending to pursue a degree in computer science, but after taking a human genetics course, he decided he wanted a career in biological research. Soon he transferred to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to study biology and medical microbiology. While an undergraduate he had the opportunity to work in Robert B. Helling's and Julian Adams's laboratories, as well an opportunity to intern during his summers at Pharmacia and Upjohn (about which he addressed the pros and cons of being in industry). After graduation, Camilli matriculated at Washington University in St. Louis, rotating through Daniel A. Portnoy's, William L. Goldwin's, and Roy Curtiss III's laboratories. When Portnoy left for the University of Pennsylvania, Camilli followed in order to complete his doctoral work on the genes for virulence factors in Listeria monocytogenes. He undertook a postdoctoral fellowship in John J. Mekalanos's lab at Harvard University focusing on a recombinase reporter system for genetic expression before accepting a faculty position at the Tufts University School of Medicine. After setting up his own laboratory Camilli received the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award providing him with funding to explore important and interesting directions in his research. Genes remained the central aspect of his science, so he focused his lab on genetic expression in Vibrio cholerae and gene regulation in Streptococcus pneumoniae, which, he acknowledges, has practical applications to understandings of health and disease. The interview concludes with Camilli's reflections on various topics related to his science, his life, and his career. He discusses the ways in which his role in the laboratory has changed over time, his teaching responsibilities, his management style, especially as it relates to his mentors' styles, and balancing his career with his family. He ends with his thoughts on competition in science; the national research agenda; collaboration; and, of course, what he enjoys most about being a scientist.
Gustavo Leone was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and lived there until he was twelve—he was the second of three children. His parents owned a deli, in which Leone worked too. Not being able to get ahead, the family moved to Montréal, Québec, Canada seeking better opportunities; a few years later, Leone's father died. From there the family moved to Calgary, Alberta. Leone played soccer much of the time, though he was also interested in marbles and street hockey. He got into fights regularly; he eventually began taking karate lessons. His only outstanding memory of school is that he loved high school biology. Leone entered the University of Calgary, where he did not do well his first year. He left school for a year and a half; he and his girlfriend bought a motorcycle and traveled through Canada, the United States, and Central America, eventually ending up in Uruguay. When they ran out of money they returned to Canada, where Leone began college anew. He worked hard and did well, intending to become a doctor. After his third year he spent the summer working in Patrick Lee's lab. He loved that work so much he knew he was made for research. He married his fellow-traveler girlfriend and remained in Lee's lab for his PhD, where he worked on reovirus and began work on cell cycles. He loved the work, sometimes even sleeping on a cot in the lab. Feeling that he had much to learn, he delayed finishing his PhD for a year, focusing his research on experiments with oligomerization, the results of which ended up conflicting with those of a Harvard University group. During these years he and his wife had two children. Lee advised Leone to go to Duke University to work with Joseph Nevins. There he studied cell cycle with James DeGregori, who had lived in Uruguay for a year. The two hit it off and published an important paper before DeGregori left Duke. From Nevins Leone says he learned mentoring and lab management as well as a great deal of science. Leone engaged in protracted negotiations for a faculty position with University of Calgary, but when Ohio State University made him an enthusiastic offer, he and his family packed up and moved to Columbus. Changing technology brought the opportunity to study interrelationships among the E2F family members, which is where Leone sought a cure for some cancers, notably breast cancer. Seeing cancer as a complex disease needing collaboration and communication among people with differing approaches and goals, Leone established Tumor Microenvironment. He is also one of the heads of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center. He continues to find the study of chemistry and genetics of cancer tissue important and fascinating. Leone concludes his interview with discussions of his administrative responsibilities; his publication history and methods; the connections between art and science; and the importance to him of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award.
Mark Davis grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the second of five children. His father was a civil engineer, his mother an architect. Davis took an early interest in science, thanks to wide reading and an influential high school biology teacher. Davis matriculated at Johns Hopkins University. Trouble in a mini organic chemistry class sent him to Peter Johnson's synthetic organic chemistry lab, where he helped produce two papers. He switched majors to biology because he thought it answered important questions. He worked in Michael Beer's lab, trying to sequence DNA with a transfer scanning microscope. Hopkins was known for its membrane biologists, and Davis, interested in molecular biology, wanted to combine the study of DNA with classical genetics studies. He consulted his advisors, who told him to take a physical chemistry class and suggested graduate studies at California Institute of Technology (Caltech). There he went into Edward Lewis' Drosophila lab, but he hated flies and found Lewis difficult to work with. He then went to Eric Davidson's lab, where he worked with Glen Galau and William Klein on sea urchins. Davidson was harshly critical and Davis found the lab atmosphere oppressive; he moved to Leroy Hood's lab. There he worked successfully with Philip Early, an early molecular biologist. Davis cloned the first mouse genomic library. His approach to science is to prepare thoroughly, to avoid what others do, and to look for variations. Davis's next move was to National Institutes of Health. In William Paul's lab he designed a general technology to find genes expressed at very low levels. At Ronald Schwartz's suggestion Davis used pulse field gel technology to discover delta chain of T-cell receptors. Recognizing that T-cell receptors are important for immunology, Davis, the only molecular biologist in his department, began his work on T-cell receptors, work that continues today. Davis still works in his lab, which is beginning to do biochemical work on T-cells, trying to engineer expression of membrane proteins in soluble form. His lab is also working with transgenic mice, a more difficult system for which he gets help from Pamela Bjorkman and others. Davis applies to science the strategies of fencing; he compares the principles of economy and mastery in fencing to samurai movies.