James C. A. Bardwell

Born: Saskatoon, SK, CA

James C. A. Bardwell was born in Saskatoon, Canada and attended University of Saskatchewan. He worked with Louis P. Visentin at the Canadian National Research Council, where he focused his work on recombinant DNA. Bardwell's interest in the outdoors led him to take trips between undergraduate and graduate school to Papua, New Guinea and the Northwest Territories. He continued to travel throughout his graduate career. While at University of Wisconsin, Madison, Bardwell worked in Elizabeth Craig's laboratory on heat-shock proteins. His postdoctoral work included research in genetics on protein disulfide isomerase. Now at University of Michigan, he has continued his research on protein folding. Bardwell reflects on scientific policy, public awareness, scientific funding, and how these broader themes have influenced his work. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0626
No. of pages: 121
Minutes: 340

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
5 and 6 April 2004
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Abstract of Interview

James C. A. Bardwell was born and raised in Saskatoon, Canada. He was influenced early on by his family and by his religion, and knew that he had the interest and drive to go into science. Bardwell entered the University of Saskatchewan and was introduced to research and laboratory work by Louis P. Visentin at the Canadian National Research Council, where he focused his work on recombinant DNA. Bardwell's interest in the outdoors led him to take two trips between his undergraduate and graduate work to Papua, New Guinea and the Northwest Territories, Canada. He continued to travel throughout his graduate career at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and his postdoctorates at the National Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. While at Wisconsin, Bardwell worked in Elizabeth Craig's laboratory on heat-shock proteins, which remain an interest of his to this day. His postdoctoral work included research in genetics on protein disulfide isomerase. After his postdoctoral research and several publications, Bardwell travelled to Germany for a guest professorship, where he gained experience in running a small lab. He left Germany for a position at the University of Michigan, where he has continued his research on protein folding, and where he has had to juggle between family and career—specifically the two-body problem. Bardwell's roles as principal investigator and as an associate chair of his department have required him to take on many responsibilities, including administrative work and recruitment. These duties are in addition to his more "everyday" duties, which include publishing, grant writing, overall laboratory management, and his time at home. He begins to conclude the interview by reflecting on the wider scope of national scientific policy, public awareness of science, and scientific funding, and how these broader themes have influenced his own work and that of his peers. Drawing from his own experience with recruiting, his graduate work with Craig, and his interactions with his wife and peer Ursula Jakob, Bardwell also discussed in detail the state of women in science—in the United States, in Germany, and in his own lab. The interview ends with a discussion of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences, which united Bardwell's love for travel and open discussions of scientific research. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1981 University of Saskatchewan BSc
1987 University of Wisconsin, Madison PhD

Professional Experience

National Cancer Institute

1987 to 1989
Fogarty Fellow

Harvard Medical School

1989 to 1993
Helen Hay Whitney Fellow

University of Regensberg

1993 to 1995
Visiting Professor and Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry

University of Michigan

1996 to 2001
Assistant Professor, Department of Biology
2001 to 2006
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
2005 to 2016
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
2006 to 2016
Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology University of Michigan

Table of Contents

Early Years and Thoughts about Wife and Daughter
1

Growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Family background. Sisters. Childhood interests and experiences. Parents. Meets his future wife. Wife's career. Daughter. Early schooling. Influential teacher. Extracurricular Activities. Religion.

Undergraduate and Graduate Education and the National Cancer Institute
34

Decision to pursue science as a career. Attends the University of Saskatchewan. First laboratory experience working on recombinant DNA in Louis Visentin's laboratory at the Canadian National Research Council. Attends graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. Doctoral research on heat-shock proteins inElizabeth Craig's laboratory. Postdoctoral fellowship in Donald Court's laboratory at the National Cancer Institute. Craig's management style.

Harvard Medical School, the University of Regensburg, and Becoming Faculty
55

Postdoctoral fellowship in Jonathan Beckwith's laboratory at Harvard Medical School. Research in genetics on protein disulfide isomerase. Love of travel. Beckwith's management style. Guest professorship in Germany. Accepts a position at University of Michigan. Setting up his laboratory. Tenure at University of Michigan. Current research in protein folding studying heat shockproteins and proteins that catalyzing disulfide bond formation. Balancing family and career. Clinical applications of research. Funding history. Creativity in science.

Laboratory Life and Management
83

Role in the lab. Administrative duties. Prominence of German students in his Laboratory. Teaching responsibilities. Travel commitments. Duties to professional community. Process of writing journal articles. Grant-writing process. Laboratory management style. Patents. National scientific agenda. Role of the scientist in educating the public about science. Gender. Women in science in Germany. More on balancing family and career. Competition andcollaboration. Science in Germany. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.

Index
117

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten