Peter R. Arvan

Born: September 11, 1956 | New York City, NY, US
Photograph of Peter R. Arvan

Peter R. Arvan’s family background played an important role in his development, including his mother’s escape from Nazi Germany as a teenager. His decision to pursue science developed from his involvement in the National Science Foundation Summer Program in Biochemistry before his senior year in high school. Arvan joined Efraim Racker’s laboratory at Cornell University and then pursued his PhD at Yale University, working in the research laboratory of J. David Castle, and completed his residency at the University of North Carolina and Yale. Throughout the interview Arvan discussed the difficulties of scientific funding, the fortuitous events which have shaped his scientific thinking, and the difficulties inherent in the MD/PhD program.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0501
No. of pages: 257
Minutes: 600

Interview Sessions

Neil D. Hathaway
29 June, and 2, 5-6 July 1993
Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

Abstract of Interview

Peter R. Arvan begins the interview discussing his childhood in Queens, New York. Arvan’s family background played an important role in his development, including his mother’s escape from Nazi Germany as a teenager. Although his parents were extremely interested in his education, there never existed any particular emphasis on science; his movement into a scientific career could have been altered had he found any inspiration or an inspirational figure in the humanities instead.  Arvan’s decision to pursue science developed from his involvement in the National Science Foundation Summer Program in Biochemistry before his senior year in high school.  Arvan returned to this program as an advanced student the following summer and even as an instructor while he was an undergraduate; this program was extremely influential in his academic development.  Arvan joined Efraim Racker’s laboratory at Cornell University and then pursued his MD/PhD at Yale University working in the research laboratory of J. David Castle.  After one year at the University of North Carolina for residency, Arvan returned to Yale under the Research Residency Program where he pursued research in Howard Rasmussen’s laboratory.  Throughout the interview Arvan discussed the difficulties of scientific funding, the fortuitous events which have shaped his scientific thinking, and the difficulties inherent in the MD/PhD program.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1977 Cornell University BA Biochemistry
1984 Yale University MD Medicine
1984 Yale University School of Medicine PhD Cell Biology

Professional Experience

Harvard Medical School

1988 to 1994
Assistant Professor, Cell and Development Biology Program

Beth Israel Hospital Boston

1988 to 1994
Associate Physician, Division of Endocrinology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1977

Phi Beta Kappa

1978

Medical Scientist Training Program, Yale University School of Medicine

1985

Research Residency Program, Yale University School of Medicine

1988 to 1992

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Childhood
1

Family background and parents education. Mother's escape as a teenager from Nazi Germany. Religious experiences. Different experiences among his older sister, his older brother and himself. Elementary School.

Youth
30

Growing up in New York City. Difficulties in early education stemming from skipping a grade. National Science Foundation Summer Program in Biochemistry.

College Education
60

Choosing and attending Cornell University. Working in Efraim Racker's laboratory. Mark Spector's fraud in the Racker laboratory. General issues of scientific fraud and ethics. Protein secretion mechanism hypotheses in the early 1970s.

MD/PhD Program
84

Yale University. Unhappiness during first year. Interest in joint programs.

Work at Beth Israel Hospital
102

Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. Discussion of tenure possibilities. Difference between Beth Israel and Harvard Medical School.

Funding
123

Interest in physiology and pathophysiology. Importance of endocrinology. Ability to focus research.

Principal Investigator
138

Costs of working with radiation. Affiliation with Harvard Medical School Thoughts about future research.

PhD Work
160

Cell Biology. PhD. Work with J. David Castle. Experience at University of North Carolina. Constitutive and regulatory secretion pathways.

Index
253

About the Interviewer

Neil D. Hathaway