Browse Oral Histories Alphabetically

Torsten N. Wiesel was born near Stockholm, Sweden. He attended medical school at Karolinska Institute and worked there before coming to the United States as a postdoc at Johns Hopkins University. There he worked on epilepsy. One of his brothers had become schizophrenic, which prompted Torsten's interest in neuroscience. Working in Kuttler's lab, he dealt with retinal ganglion receptive fields/responses to light stimulation, using cats and monkeys as his lab animals. David Hubel arrived at Hopkins, and the two men began a very long collaboration that in 1981 garnered them the Nobel Prize. In 1983, after Torsten had been chairman for ten years, he moved to Rockefeller University and became president. He is now Secretary General of the Human Frontier Science Program in Strasbourg.

Paul A. Wilks, Jr., begins by discussing his early years and family life in Springfield, Massachusetts. After graduating from Springfield Technical High School, Wilks went to Harvard University, where he majored in engineering. In 1945, he began working at Perkin-Elmer, Inc., becoming marketing director in 1952. In 1957, Wilks left Perkin-Elmer and, with Charles W. Warren, founded the Connecticut Instrument Company, a company that manufactured accessories for the infrared industry. Later Wilks formed the Wilks Scientific Corporation, which manufactured a variety of spectroscopy products. Wilks founded the General Analysis Corporation. He retired in 1993 and General Analysis was eventually sold to OI Corporation. Although theoretically retired, Wilks started another company in the 1990s, Wilks Enterprise, Inc. This company continues Wilks' efforts to produce applicable products based on infrared spectroscopy and other technologies. Wilks concludes the interview with reflections on the state of infrared technology and thoughts about his career.

Jalyn Williams was born in Philadelphia in January 2001. She has lived in West Philadelphia, in Upper Darby, and in Chester. Jalyn is an honors student at Central High School in Philadelphia, a four-year college preparatory magnet school consistently ranked among the top schools in Pennsylvania and one of the oldest public schools in the United States. When not studying or volunteering for local environmental causes, Jalyn enjoys playing video games and has a passion for equality.

R. Stanley Williams begins by discussing Sputnik's influence on his decision to study science. After a positive experience in high school, Williams found himself not as prepared in comparison to his peers at Rice University, where he was mentored in microwave spectroscopy by Professor Robert Curl. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Williams worked at Hewlett-Packard on photoelectron spectrometers. He worked on photoemission while pursing his graduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley. After receiving his PhD, Williams accepted a position at Bell Laboratories as staff scientist. Disliking the corporate culture at Bell, he moved to University of California, Los Angeles, and very quickly built up a large research lab, which studied photoemission, ion scattering, STM, and finally AFM. After the earthquake in 1994 destroyed most of his instruments, Williams returned to HP and started a research initiative that eventually evolved into the Quantum Science Research Laboratory (QSR): nano electronics. QSR's four research areas include: nano photonics; nano mechanics; and nano architecture. Williams concludes the interview by offering his thoughts on outside collaboration and funding, the importance of micro-electro-mechanical systems to HP, and how he views QSR in relations to other research institutions.

Trevor Williams was born in Wolverhampton, England. A class with Tony Minson at Cambridge piqued his interest in virology. After his second year he won a research fellowship to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where he worked on herpes virus in James McDougall's lab. The next year his interest in the molecular genetics of cancer as related to viruses led him to spend a summer fellowship in Joe Sambrook's lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Subsequently, Trevor moved to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, where he began his PhD studies with Michael Hayman, but later switched to Michael Fried's lab to study cell enhancers. Shifting from virology to molecular biochemistry, he accepted a postdoc in Robert Tjian's lab at University of California, Berkeley. Realizing that science in the United States provided a more comprehensive market for all kinds of research, Williams decided not to return to Britain. He accepted an assistant professorship at Yale, where he is now an associate professor.

J. Lawrence Wilson begins his oral history interview with a discussion of his childhood in Rosedale, Mississippi, and education at Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana. After high school, he received a Naval Reserves Officer Training Corps scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University, where he majored in mechanical engineering. Wilson graduated in 1958, and he then served in the Navy for several years, stationed in Bermuda. When he returned, Wilson attended Harvard Business School, receiving his MBA in 1963. Two years later, he joined Rohm and Haas Company. Wilson discusses his views on scientific innovation, his time in Europe, and the changes in Rohm and Haas and the chemical industry, in general, over the past three decades. Wilson concludes the interview with a discussion of the chemical industry's environmental concerns, Rohm and Haas's acquisition of Morton International, his work with the Chemical Manufacturers Association, and his family.

Thomas E. Wilson grew up in Neenah, Wisconsin. While his father, a chemical engineer, often brought work-related discussions home, his mother, a teacher, also encouraged the academic environment of the household. During undergrad, Wilson was involved in the Medical Scholars Program, pursued biology research with Charles B. Kaspar, and built musical instruments. He then decided upon a MD/PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis, where he could continue his interest in medicine but pursue a laboratory research program as well. Joining Jeffrey D. Milbrant's laboratory, Wilson undertook a DNA binding project that allowed him to collaborate with yeast geneticist Mark Johnston. After his residency and postdoc, Wilson joined the University of Michigan pathology department, which allows him laboratory opportunities while maintaining ties to the clinical world.

E. Bright Wilson, Jr., begins his oral history interview with a description of his family, early education, and his undergraduate and graduate studies at Princeton University, where he was inspired by the intellectual atmosphere and affable faculty. After reviewing the curriculum, his senior thesis on quantum mechanics, and his experience at Tuxedo Park, he recalls his years at the California Institute of Technology, where he began work with vibration and group theory. Next, he describes his work at Harvard, focusing on advances in spectroscopy, and his government research at Woods Hole and in Washington, DC. Wilson concludes with a brief profile of his family and a few remarks on his publications.

Jeffrey Wilusz grew up in South Amboy, New Jersey, and attended Rutgers. He found thinking through scientific issues similar to solving puzzles. Wilusz became interested in virology and began graduate work at Duke University, where Jack Keene and Thomas Shenk became his mentors. Lessons learned in Keene's lab helped Wilusz identify a leader RNA that binds to La protein. He began the sequencing of Ebola virus-identified RNA structural regions that recognize antibodies, and began studying VA RNA in the Shenk lab. Wilusz soon took a position at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where he continued to pursue his interest in RNA research. He discusses pursuing diverse lines of research in a lab, conference presentations, publishing, funding, and trends in the biomedical sciences.

Mark Winey was born in Chicago, Illinois. His initial interest in genetics resulted from his younger sister's galactosemia. In high school, he took many science classes and began his enduring love of the outdoors. While at Syracuse University, he also took advantage of SUNY Stony Brook's nearby forestry school, though he majored in biology. A microbiology class convinced him to focus on yeast, which he still loves for its genetics and application to the study of human disease. He attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, then went to the University of Washington for a postdoc to study centrosomes. Next, he accepted a faculty position at the University of Colorado. He continues to research MPS1, MPS2, and NDC1 and work with students.

Florine Wise was born in her grandmother’s house and grew up in West Ambler, Pennsylvania. Although Wise was aware of asbestos exposure, she occasionally went sledding down the asbestos piles. Wise attended local parochial schools and graduated from Wissahickon High School; she worked as a legal typist/assistant for the Montgomery County Courthouse. She notes the issues in a development plan and side effects of gentrification. Wise discusses the closure of West Ambler’s park, and the shortcomings of the new one. Wise helped establish Citizens for a Better Ambler (CBA) to fight a proposed high-rise on Ambler’s asbestos area. With the advent of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CBA developed into a community advisory group (CAG), and the ensuing debate over remediation caused a split between those who advocated total removal of asbestos, and those who wanted capping. Wise points out that removal of asbestos would mean many years of continuous truck traffic, with uncontrolled asbestos exposure, and increased flooding, all in the African-American neighborhoods. Wise says things are going well with the CAG, and she is now the head of the environmental justice committee of the CAG. She emphasizes the importance of communication among citizens and believes that a community center would expedite such communication in Ambler.

William Wishnick begins his oral history interview by describing his parents' careers and the founding of the Wishnick-Tumpeer Chemical Company in 1920. His father's company, now called Witco, expanded with the acquisition of several domestic arid international companies and went public in 1958. After serving in the military and completing his education, Wishnick began working for the company in 1949 until his retirement in 1990. Wishnick discusses company growth, the diversification of product lines, and how the nature of doing business has changed over the years.

Harland G. Wood's oral history begins with a brief discussion of his role in the restructuring of Western Reserve University's medical curriculum. He then reflects on his childhood and education, and first interest in chemistry. He chronicles his career in chemistry and molecular biology from his college years through his extensive laboratory research at Iowa State College, where he first developed his concept of the fixation of carbon dioxide by bacteria. Throughout the interview, in addition to discussing research and the influence of various colleagues and associates, he often focuses on the numerous advancements that have occurred during his lifetime and their impacts (both positive and negative) on the way laboratory research is conducted. He concludes with his thoughts on the future of science, stressing the importance of continued enthusiasm and motivation in scientists of all ages.

Sarah A. Woodson was born in Warren, Michigan. Though her father believed that women had a subservient place in society and should not work, Woodson's mother helped her get into Kalamazoo College, where she studied chemistry. After spending a year at a lab in France, she began working in Morton Rabin's lab at Wayne State University. Next, she went to Yale University, where she studied nucleic acids using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. After five years there, she spent three years as a postdoc with Thomas Cech at University of Colorado. There she studied RNA, discovering reverse self-splicing. She is now a professor at Johns Hopkins University, where she teaches, runs her lab, publishes, and mentors lab members.

Edgar Woolard begins with a description of his family and childhood years in Washington, North Carolina. Woolard enrolled in North Carolina State University as a nuclear engineering major. In his junior year, he switched his major to industrial engineering; he received his BS in 1956, and accepted a position at Alcoa in Maryville, Tennessee. After a six-month stint in the US Army, Woolard was offered a job at DuPont, where he was shortly promoted into management. He entered DuPont's Planning Division in 1976, where he oversaw many breakthroughs in DuPont polymers, especially Dacron production. In 1983, Woolard was given responsibility for three departments: Agricultural Chemicals Division, Medical Division, and Photo Products Division. He served in that capacity for three years before becoming Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, then CEO in 1987. Woolard received the Chemical Industry Medal in 1998. He concludes the interview with a discussion of DuPont's major achievements during his career, retirement, and thoughts on his family.

John Woolston attended King’s College London, where he studied nuclear physics and radio electronics in his physics curriculum. He spent three years in National Service and after studying in Paris for several months he returned to England to a job with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. He then moved to Washington, DC, to the British Science Mission, where he was responsible for evaluating designs of computers as a means of organizing information and technologies. Soon working for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, as Technical Information Officer, Woolston collected, collated, and copied documents; and he became secretary of the library committee, responsible for editing AECL publications and eventually for document security classification, at that point as Head of Technical Information Branch. After three years at INIS, he accepted an offer of the directorship of the Information Sciences Division in the International Development Research. Woolston took early retirement and began work on Development Information Science System, an information system for social and economic development. He spent three years working for the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas and then returned to DEVSIS.

John Wotiz begins a description of his family and childhood years in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, attending Technical University of Prague, and studying chemical engineering. Wotiz and his brother left Czechoslovakia for the United States in 1939. Wotiz received a scholarship to attend Furman University, where he completed his BS degree in chemistry in 1941. While working towards his PhD, Wotiz served in the US Army as a lieutenant in the Chemical Warfare Service. After receiving his PhD in organic chemistry from Ohio State University in 1948, Wotiz accepted an instructor position with the University of Pittsburgh. He left in 1957 to become a research supervisor at Diamond Alkali Company, but he returned to Marshall University in 1962. In 1967, Wotiz assumed the chemistry department chairmanship at Southern Illinois University. In 1969, Wotiz made an extended study of chemistry education in the Soviet Union under an exchange arrangement between the National Academy of Sciences and the USSR Academy of Sciences.

Hao Wu grew up in China, during which time her family was separated and forced to relocate to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. Despite this turmoil, Wu excelled in school. She enrolled in Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, a highly selective, combined eight year bachelor's and medical degree program founded by the Rockefeller Foundation, where she took courses taught in English and a semester of immunology research which piqued her interest in laboratory work. At an international biochemistry meeting, Wu discovered the structural biology research of Michael Rossmann, and after some difficulty obtaining her visa, Wu began the PhD program at Purdue University joining Rossmann's laboratory. She ultimately joined the faculty at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Shortly after beginning at Cornell, Wu received the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences Award. This fellowship helped her solve structures and perform the initial work necessary in order to receive a National Institutes of Health grant. During the oral history, Wu discussed her research group's work on TRAF and AIF and the difficulties associated with the funding of crystallographic research. She also touched on the current struggle between basic and translational science; competition from other laboratories; the complexities of balancing family and work; and the difficulties women in science face.

Kurt Wüthrich begins by discussing the emergence of his interest in chemistry during his high school years. He remained interested in the sciences while at University of Basel and divided his time between sports, physics, and chemistry, and in March 1964 he received his PhD in chemistry, doing research with an electron paramagnetic resonance spectrometer [EPR] to study the catalytic action of metal compounds. After receiving his PhD, he undertook post-doctoral reserach at University of California, Berkeley on nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. In 1969, he returned to Switzerland to work at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich. He concludes his interview by discussing his continued research in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy as a Professor of Biophysics at ETH Zürich and a Professor of Structural Biology at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

George M. Wyman was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1921. Wyman attended the Lutheran Gimnázium in Budapest until World War II threatened, when he left for the United States to become a chemist. Wyman entered Cornell University as a sophomore finishing his degree in two and a half years. He remained at Cornell for his master's and PhD degrees, working on fluorine chemistry. His research interests fell between the fields of physical and organic chemistry. Wyman began his career in industry working with fluorine compounds and developed his expertise in dye chemistry. During his years at the National Bureau of Standards, Wyman conducted various spectrophotometric measurements of indigo and azo dyes, resulting in some twenty publications. In a decades-long career working for the US Army, Wyman taught himself fluorescence techniques and continued his work on isomerization of dyes. Working for the Army's European Research Office, he identified and established networks of chemists whose work could be useful to the Army. Returning from Europe, Wyman was able to conduct research at University of North Carolina. In the 1960s, Wyman established the International Conference on Photochemistry. After retiring, he spent ten years consulting, bringing people and universities together with funding.

Yue Xiong was born in Nanchang. His father was a scholar sent to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution, and his mother struggled to support the family. After high school Xiong worked on the farm where his family lived. When the Cultural Revolution ended, Xiong attended Fudan University. James Watson's book on the molecular biology of the gene inspired him. Interested in the China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application program, Xiong learned English and went to the University of Rochester, where he 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. He is now at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, looking at cell-cycle control and tumor suppression.

Tian Xu was born in Jiaxing City. During the Cultural Revolution, his parents endured "reeducation," the family moved to a shack, and Xu's schooling was negatively impacted. He took up Go to keep himself challenged mentally. After the Cultural Revolution, Xu studied genetics at Fudan University. When a famous mathematician, Shiing-Shen Chern, returned to Xu's hometown from Berkeley, Xu resolved to go to the United States. He went to Yale University, where he entered Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas's lab. Xu resisted learning English until he entered Gerald Rubin's laboratory at University of California, Berkeley. He later became a principal investigator at Yale. He discusses his current research on cancer and the LATS and DRPLA genes, motivation for pursuing science, and the advantages and disadvantages of being a principal investigator. 

Zhaohui Xu was born in Suzhou, China. Because the Cultural Revolution dictated a child's future occupation, education options were limited, and there were few books, no movies, no television. Soon things began to change, and in junior high school Xu began science classes. He attended University of Science and Technology of China for its broader science base. Xu loved the excitement of discovery to be found in basic science, but because Chinese research facilities were so limited, he knew he wanted to go to graduate school elsewhere, eventually attending University of Minnesota. After his PhD and six years in Paul Sigler's lab at Yale, he accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Michigan. There, he works on crystal structure of the trigger factor, crystal structure of the cytosolic chaperones GroEL and GroES, and SecA and SecB.

Lili Yamasaki grew up near Detroit, Michigan. She had an early interest in art and writing, which she believes leads to creativity in science. Like all her siblings, Yamasaki attended University of Michigan for undergrad, where she studied chemistry, but diversified her education with humanities classes. During summers she worked in various labs focused on chemistry. After graduating, she accepted a position doing enzymology research at Stanford University with Donna L. Wong and Roland D. Ciaranello. Wanting to obtain a doctoral degree, she attended University of Texas Health Science Center, where she worked with Robert E. Lanford on receptor specificity in nuclear transport. After a postdoc, Yamasaki took a position at Columbia University, looking at the regulation of growth and development by suppressors and activators.

Douglas Yee was born in Detroit to parents who had fled China just before World War II. He came to like chemistry while attending the University of Michigan, where he studied zoology and anthropology. During the summers he worked in Joan Bull's lab at the National Institutes of Health and became interested in cancer and genetics. He entered medical school at the University of Chicago; there he studied Epstein-Barr virus. His internship and residency followed at North Carolina Memorial Hospital. Then he accepted a staff fellow position at the National Cancer Institute, where he researched insulin-like growth factors (IGF) in Marc E. Lippman's lab. He went on to an instructorship at Georgetown University, then to an assistant professorship at University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He is now an associate professor there.

John Zaharchuk grew up in Newburgh, New York. He attended Bucknell University and obtained a Master's in Business Administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Zaharchuk became familiar with Ambler as he drove between home and work. He had been thinking about the old boiler house on the Keasbey & Mattison factory property for development. With Borough officials he gathered private and public investors and held informational meetings for local residents. Although they wanted the boiler house saved and were supportive of his ideas, the residents were leery of the asbestos, so Zaharchuk's project removed it all. The Ambler Boiler House is a successful Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building. Zaharchuk is currently building a series of apartments on another piece of the Keasbey & Mattison property. The major contaminant there is magnesia, which has determined the footprint of the building. Asbestos would have been easier to deal with, as it requires only capping to be safe and stable. Zaharchuk is also talking to other property owners in the area, especially the BoRit site, with a view to developing more of Ambler. He says that Ambler is only about half redeveloped, and that his experience with contaminated property is valuable. After the first remediation in Ambler when people first learned about the dangers of asbestos, investors kept away, contributing to Ambler's economic decline, but people no longer fear remediation, and they want more improvement.

Philip D. Zamore spent his childhood in New York City and Long Island. As an undergraduate, Zamore developed his interest in science and decided to focus on molecular biology. He spent time in several laboratories, though the majority of his laboratory experience was at Massachusetts General Hospital with John H. Hartwig. Staying at Harvard for a semester after graduating to work as a laboratory technician with Michael R. Green, Zamore decided to conduct his graduate research there as well. He moved with Green from Harvard to the University of Massachusetts, Worcester, where his work on snRNP flourished. He detailed his experiences with RNAi and his early work running his own laboratory. Throughout the interview Zamore discussed the importance of writing and publishing and his relationship with his students, as well as balancing his family life with his career.

Yixian Zheng was born in Chongqing, China. She went to school on the campus of Chongqing University, where her parents were faculty. The end of the Cultural Revolution brought about a radical change in Zheng's education. She entered Sichuan University and soon became interested in cell biology. Encouraged by her father, who was a visiting professor at University of Akron, Zheng applied to Ohio State University's graduate program. She worked in Berl R. Oakley's laboratory; her graduate thesis focused on gamma tubulin and centrosome function. Zheng took a postdoc in Bruce Alberts's laboratory at University of California, San Francisco, where she continued research on centrosome function and purification of the gamma tubulin complex. She then accepted a position at the Carnegie Institute, where she is today.

Yi Zhong was born in Ji Shou, Hunan Province. When he was eight, the Cultural Revolution reassigned his parents; he was sent to live with his grandparents. After high school he was assigned to a farm. He heard about the 1976 Tiananmen Square protesters on a radio he had built himself. College entrance exams were reinstituted, and Yi was accepted at Tsinghua University, where he was assigned to study nuclear engineering. He met Mu-Ming Poo, who recommended Yi to Chun-Fang Wu at the University of Iowa. Yi suffered severe culture shock when he arrived, marveling at the freedom to determine his own future. After finishing his PhD he set up a lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He visits China regularly, planning to start a parallel lab there.

Z. Hong Zhou was born in China the year before the Cultural Revolution. At the end of the Cultural Revolution, China committed itself to science and Zhou's father spent a month's salary on a set of science books for Zhou to encourage his education. When he was fourteen, Zhou went to high school at a boarding school away from his village, not returning to his home for over a year. With an interest in high-energy physics, he attended University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei. He received a master's under Lienchao Tsien, conducting research using cyclotron radiation imaging, then attended graduate school at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He is now at University of Texas Medical Center, studying viruses using structural and computational biology.

Bruno Zimm recalls growing up in Woodstock, New York. where he had a growing fascination with science. Zimm undertook both undergraduate and graduate studies at Columbia University, where he recalls faculty, curricula, and the effect of World War II on research activities. In 1944, Zimm transferred to Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute to work on a wartime project on the degradation of polyvinyl chloride. Here he started his study of the theory and practice of the light scattering of polymer solutions, which he continued at the University of California, Berkeley. Later, Zimm moved to the General Electric laboratories at Schenectady, where he further developed his studies of dynamic methods for the investigation of polymer solutions. A short time as a visiting professor at Yale University rekindled his interests in biological polymers, especially DNA. At the University of California, San Diego, Zimm continued instrumental research as well as his theoretical interests. The interview closes with Zimm reflecting on the changes in polymer science over the duration of his career, and he comments on educational opportunities in this discipline.

Kai Zinn was born in Berkeley, California, but grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He attended the University of California, San Diego, where Paul Saltman inspired him to study chemistry. During his last year in college, Zinn worked on an independent study with Jack Kyte. After graduation Zinn had planned to travel, but broke his leg while at Yosemite and ended up at Kyte's lab for the summer. Kyte persuaded Zinn to attend Harvard for his PhD. There he worked on SV40 in Mark Ptashne's lab. Zinn joined Tom Maniatis's lab to work on interferon, then moved to Corey Goodman's lab. After finishing postdocs at Stanford and Berkeley, he accepted a job at California Institute of Technology, where he is now an associate professor.

Charles S. Zuker was born and raised in Arica, Chile. He attended the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, where he worked as a teaching assistant, learning about scientific research from a doctoral student. He attended MIT for graduate school, where he worked with Harvey F. Lodish using slime molds as a system for studying development and trying to characterize the genes turned on as the molds developed spores. He took a postdoctoral position at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on neurobiology. He then accepted a faculty position at the University of California, San Diego, and set up his research on Drosophila signaling pathways. He discusses competition in science, his gene research, the development of electrophysiology techniques, the NIH, and balancing life and work.

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