Brenda L. Bass
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Brenda L. Bass grew up in the 1960's in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Her parents were young and had no opportunity to finish college, taking jobs as realtors. As a result, Bass was often cared for by her maternal grandmother, to whom she attributes her independence, her toughness, and her love of the truth. Severely asthmatic and allergic, Bass lived at the Children's Asthma Research Institute and Hospital in Denver, Colorado, from age eleven to age twelve and a half. Here she developed a love for the West and a very different perspective on social conditions in the South, determining that she would always want to live in the West. She returned to Florida to finish her junior high school and high school years. She then attended Emory University for a year, studying English. Dissatisfied with the program, she took a semester off and then transferred to Colorado College, where she planned to study nutritional chemistry. Interest in nutritional chemistry developed into interest in chemistry and ultimately into biochemistry. After obtaining her BA she remained uncertain as to what she wanted to do, and she applied to Rush Medical College in Chicago, Illinois. She walked out of a nutritional chemistry class when the teacher brought out plastic models of foods. She became a research technician at Rush, which she worked at for three years before returning to University of Colorado, Boulder, to pursue a PhD in biochemistry. There she worked in Thomas R. Cech's lab, focusing on self-splicing RNA and its implications for biological catalysis. When she received her PhD, in 1985, she accepted a post-doc with Harold Weintraub in Seattle, Washington, where she worked at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center for four years. She then accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Utah, and from 1995 until the present she has been an associate professor there as well as and assistant investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She has published numerous papers; she is involved in conferences and committees; and her first love remains "the bench."
|1985||University of Colorado, Boulder||PhD||Biochemistry|
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
University of Utah
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
|1983 to 1984||
Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) recipient
|1985 to 1988||
Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Postdoctoral Fellowship
|1990 to 1994||
Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
|1991 to 1996||
David and Lucile Packard Foundation fellowship
Table of Contents
Growing up in Florida. Severe asthma and allergies. Social climate of Florida in the sixties. Education in public schools. Racial tensions in high school. Interest in music and writing. Views on religion, especially with regard to Mormons at University of Utah
Attends Emory University, intending to study English. Transfer to Colorado College. Interest in nutrition prompts Bass to study chemistry. Preference for living in the West. Sexism and gender issues. Becomes lab tech at Rush Medical College. Interest in biochemistry.
Teaching Assistant at Colorado College. Working in Thomas R. Cech's lab. Discovers that RNA itself can catalyze a splicing reaction. Bass's own research projects. Postdoctoral research with Harold Weintraub at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. Discovers covalent modification of double-stranded RNA substrate during dsRNA unwinding. Variety of projects in Weintraub's lab.
Assistant professorship at University of Utah; then associate professorship. Assistant investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Differences between Cech and Weintraub as scientists. Studying antisense in Weintraub's lab—Bass's field of study expands from double-stranded RNA adenosine deaminase to dsRNA-binding proteins in general.
Funding concerns in the scientific community. Relative merits of large and small labs. Need to avoid focusing on competitors' results. Bass's teaching responsibilities and training style. Importance of being involved in conferences and committees—Future research plans—Risks and benefits of collaboration. Love of "the bench". Good science as a combination of instinct, luck, and persistence.