Browse Oral Histories Alphabetically

This interview covers the life of Koji Nakanishi from his early education in Egypt to his current work as Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University and Director of the Suntory Institute for Bioorganic Research in Japan. Nakanishi also comments on his education in wartime Japan, his fellowship years at Harvard University, and his research on the structure of natural products and their mode of action, and the development and use of infrared spectroscopy, NMR, and circular dichroism. He concludes by briefly discussing his avocation, magic, and some general comments on the future of organic chemistry. 

Samuel Natelson discusses his upbringing in Brooklyn, New York, having earned his BS in chemistry at the City College of New York and his ScM and PhD at New York University. While beginning his academic career at Girls Commercial High School, Natelson also worked as a clinical chemist at the Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn, where he first conceived the idea of a society by and for clinical chemists. Eventually, Natelson became a pioneer in the field of clinical chemistry, organizing the nine charter members of the American Association of Clinical Chemists, acting as a consultant to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and later still pursuing a career as an educator. 

Robert N. Naughten grew up in rural California during the Great Depression. He attended Sequoia High School and met Gordon Moore partially through football and swimming. Moore and Naughten commuted from home to San Jose State University for two years before moving to University of California, Berkeley. The two became roommates and were part of the co-op program. Upon graduating from the pre-med program Naughten was called to participate in the Naval Reserve's effort in the Korean War. After returning from two tours in Korea, Naughten migrated to the East Coast to attend medical school at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, returning to California for an internship at Highland General Hospital. Naughten concluded the interview with reflections on the philanthropic contributions of Gordon and Betty Moore and traits that make Gordon Moore an ideal CEO. 

Donna J. Nelson discusses her childhood in Eufaula, Oklahoma, where she was greatly influenced by her parents, especially her step-father, the town's only physician. Nelson joined the chemistry department at the University of Oklahoma, where she struggled for parity with the male students, and later went on to do graduate work at the University of Texas, Austin with Michael J. S. Dewar and post-doctorate work at Purdue University as Herbert C. Brown's first female post-doctorate. In addition to her role as faculty member of the University of Oklahoma chemistry department, Nelson also conducted surveys of women and minorities in the top chemistry departments and researched issues surrounding women and minorities in chemistry and the sciences. 

For more information on Glen Nemerow, please visit the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences

For more information on this oral history, please contact the Director of the Center for Oral History. 

Roy G. Neville comments on his family and his childhood in Bournemouth, England, during the start of World War II, while admitting that he was not very intrigued by his first chemistry lesson but enjoyed performing experiments. Neville eventually earned his master's degree and PhD in the US at the University of Oregon, later establishing Engineering and Technical Consultants, Inc. to help chemists in industry. As an entrepreneur, Neville spent more of his time and money on his rare book collection and the creation of The Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. 

Amy H. Newman  matriculated at Mary Washington College, majoring in chemistry and undertaking pre-medical coursework. Most of her peers were women and she found the college to be a very supportive environment; she decided to go to graduate school for medicinal chemistry. She did her postdoctorate with Kenner C. Rice at NIH, where she focused on opiate synthesis and benzodiazopene receptors. Newman then took a position at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research researching sigma receptor ligands; she collaborated with Jeffrey M. Witkin at NIH. At NIH she found a work environment supportive of her growing family and she began conducting research on analogues of benztropine-a dopamine transporter ligand like cocaine that does not have cocaine-like effects on the body. At the end of the interview Newman discusses balancing her family and career; she comments on science education in the United States; and she shares her frustrations with how the communication of science to the public leads to unrealistic expectations for drug development and with the process of drug development itself. 

Melvin S. Newman, an eminent organic chemist, comments on his undergraduate and graduate work at Yale and his experiences at Ohio State University, where he spent most of his academic career researching, advising, and teaching both in the classroom and laboratory. Newman also discusses his publications, use of the innovative "Newman Projection," consulting, patents, and awards.

John J. Ngai was born in New York City. He attended Pomona College because of their good science program, and came to love school in a way he had not previously. During his senior year, he worked with Elias Lazarides at Caltech, where he wrote his senior thesis. He returned to Lazarides' lab for graduate school. Under Lazarides' direction, students took no classes, focusing on lab work. After a postdoc at Columbia, Ngai took a position at University of California, Berkley, where his wife worked in his lab; she is largely responsible for having developed an anosmic mouse, a breakthrough that has been patented. His lab is also studying smell in zebrafish. Ngai is now head of the graduate program of the Neuroscience Institute. 

Nico M. Nibbering was born in Zaandam, the Netherlands, one of eight children. When school resumed after World War II, Nibbering did well and tested into high school, where he chose the science and mathematics track and where his physics and chemistry teachers influenced him to attend college. He entered the University of Amsterdam and majored in chemistry under Thymen de Boer. Nibbering also obtained his master's and PhD degrees there and became head of the mass spectrometry department. He refined his interest in gas phase ion chemistry during a few months spent in Fred McLafferty's lab at Cornell University and became entranced with a Fourier transform (FT) instrument. Back at home he and James Dawson transformed a drift cell ion machine into an FT spectrometer in just a year. When he considered leaving for Utrecht University, the University of Amsterdam established a research institute for him. Nibbering is retired, but his fascination with mass spectrometry continues undiminished. He is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he is still editor of the Wiley-Interscience Series on Mass Spectrometry . 

Robert D. Nicholls was born in a small town near Melbourne, Australia. He wanted to study science, particularly biology, and he chose the University of Melbourne. During his first three years he worked on programmed experiments; in his fourth year, he worked in Barrie Davidson's lab on tyrosine amino acid biosynthesis in E. coli. Nicholls won the Royal Commission fellowship to work with David Weatherall. He went to work in Douglas Higgs' lab to study genetic disease involving brain function. Finally settling on the genetics of retardation, in particular Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes, he chose Harvard as the best place to continue. He found Harvard aggressively competitive, and finally settled at Case Western University as an associate professor in genetics. 

Raised primarily by his widowed mother, James Burton Nichols won scholarships to finance his studies of chemistry at Cornell University where he conducted a senior research project with Wilder D. Bancroft. Nichols went to Wisconsin where he was introduced to sedimentation techniques by a construction of a pioneer optical centrifuge and its use in pigment characterization, and he later was involved in the early development of the ultra-centrifuge. Nichols later had a long career at Du Pont, from applying ultracentrifugal techniques to industrial problems to contributing to the evolution of new instruments and polymer characterization. 

Bruce J. Nicholson was born in Queensland, Australia, where he focused on science through school, though he also enjoyed participating in school plays and debate. After receiving his bachelor's from the University of Queensland, he had his first independent research experience in John Mansbridge's laboratory; he went on to be mentored by Burt Zerner, an enzymologist, and Robert L. Blakely, completing an honors thesis on inhibition kinetics in jack bean urease. He studied neurobiology at Caltech, and remained there for his postdoctoral studies. He then earned a faculty position at the State University of New York, Buffalo, where he worked with Daniel B. Gros on gap junction proteins. He discusses his research, his experience as a Pew scholar, and his family. 

Alfred O. C. Nier was born in Minnesota in 1911 to parents who had emigrated from Germany. Nier decided to study electrical engineering when he enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 1927. Nier earned a master's degree in electrical engineering, and began his doctoral research at a time when quantum mechanics and X-rays were burgeoning fields of study. Nier chose to work with John Tate, who assigned Nier to work on mass spectrometry and in the mid-1930s Nier built his first mass spectrometer. After completing his PhD in 1936, Nier was awarded a National Research Council Fellowship; he elected to work with Kenneth T. Bainbridge at Harvard University. Nier returned to the University of Minnesota after completing his post-doctoral research in 1938 beginning a long career in mass spectrometry at his alma mater. In the fall of 1939 Nier became involved in work related to uranium-235 and UF6/UBr4, demonstrating via mass spectrometry that uranium-235 was the isotope that underwent slow neutron fission. After Pearl Harbor and the United States's official entry into World War II, Nier and his research team worked under the command of Harold C. Urey as part of the Manhattan Project. Nier's post-war mass spectrometry research touched on many areas including electrical detection, atmospheric studies and mass spectrometers for rockets, geochemistry, and precise masses. Nier participated in the upper atmosphere Aerobee flights throughout the 1960s, the Viking Project in the 1970s, and the Pioneer Venus Throughout his oral history Nier discusses his many publications, the instrument details of many mass spectrometers, his awards, and his career. 

Janko Nikolić-Žugić was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. As a child, he found molecular biology fascinating, and decided to specialize in natural sciences for secondary school. Nikolić-Žugić realized there were no careers for molecular biologists in Yugoslavia, so decided to become a physician. He entered Belgrade University Medical School, where Miodrag L. Lukiƒá and Marija Mostarica-Stojkoviƒá encouraged him to work in the United States. Nikolić-Žugić spent summers working with Henry H. Wortis at Tufts University, which influenced his decision to leave clinical medicine and pursue a career in the United States. After finishing his doctoral degree in Yugoslavia, he took a postdoc in Michael J. Bevan's lab at the University of California, San Diego, studying intrathymic T cells, then accepted a position at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. 

Dimitar B. Nikolov grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, the only child of a mother who was a chemist and a father who was an electrical engineer. Nikolov often accompanied his mother to her lab, and he feels that he is a scientist because of both genes and upbringing. He enrolled in the biotechnology program at Sofia University, and he completed master's degrees in both physics and biology. After the fall of the Berlin Wall it became easier for Nikolov to attend a foreign university, and he decided to apply to a PhD program in the United States. He chose Rockefeller University at first for neuroscience, but he later switched to structural biology and worked on transcription proteins in Steven Burley's lab. After finishing his PhD, Nikolov accepted a faculty position at Sloan-Kettering Institute. His research has focused on axon guidance molecules in early development. Nikolov discusses his funding history, the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant on his research, and his belief that collaboration between academia and industrial science is important. He concludes his interview with a discussion of his professional goals and his future research on cell signaling and communication in neural development. 

Frank R. Nissel recounts his upbringing and multi-lingual education in Berlin, Germany, and Egypt during the rise of Hilter's regime. He later earned his MS in chemical engineering at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1946, and eventually pursued a successful career at Union Carbide Corporation and then as co-founder of Prodex Corporation and Welex. Nissel used his mechanical instincts to revolutionize plastics machinery by making it more efficient and less expensive than its competitors, and in time was honored with membership in the Plastics Hall of Fame. 

Lee Ann Niswander was born in Bluffton, Ohio. She loved school, especially mathematics and science. After high school, she worked on dude ranches for a few years before matriculating at the University of Colorado. She worked as a technician at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center before attending Case Western University. She also spent three months in Sweden, learning microdissection and microcloning, working on a phenotype that arises from a deletion of a part of mouse chromosome 7 and that has an early embryonic phenotype during gastrulation. She now works at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She studies limb development in the chick embryo, neural tube patterning, and feather bud development. She also teaches at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. 

Jeffrey Noebels first planned to major in French literature at Reed College, but Mary Meikle’s class in physiological psychology sparked his interest in brain function. He spent a year at University College London, which was then the epicenter of brain study. He decided to get both a PhD and an MD. He began graduate school at Stanford University, working on epilepsy with Timothy Pedley and David Prince. The American Epilepsy Society’s William G. Lennox Fellowship sent him to Harvard University for postdoctoral work, and then he began medical school at Yale University. While doing his neurology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, he won a Klingenstein Fellowship to work on epilepsy. Having completed his degrees, Noebels was recruited to Baylor, where he founded the Developmental Neruogenetics Laboratory.

Donald Noyce begins the interview with a discussion of his childhood home in Iowa. He discusses his family and their strong academic tradition, his years at Grinnell College, and his early training as a chemist. He also details his graduate training at Columbia University, including his work with William von Eggers Doering, his courses, research, and the University's atmosphere. Next, he discusses his position at the University of California at Berkeley. He describes the faculty, the chemistry administration, and the changing atmosphere with respect to organic chemistry. He describes briefly his interaction with other faculty, his research, and his graduate students. Finally, he discusses the development of physical organic chemistry from the turn of the century to 1980.