Carolyn R. Bertozzi

Born: October 10, 1966 | Boston, MA, US
Photograph of Carolyn R. Bertozzi

Carolyn Bertozzi grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts and attended Harvard. Though she majored in chemistry, she worked in a biochemistry lab, where Joseph Grabowski was so impressed with her work that he required her to write a graduation thesis, which he then submitted for an award. He convinced her to attend University of California, Berkeley. There, wrote her doctoral dissertation on the synthesis of carbohydrate analogues for biological applications. Continuing her interest in carbohydrates, and contrary to the advice of other chemists, she next worked in Steven Rosen's cell biology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. She now has her lab at University of California, Berkley. She and Rosen also founded Thios Pharmaceuticals, Inc. At Berkeley she enjoys teaching, publishing, and managing her lab. 

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0529
No. of pages: 128
Minutes: 400

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
17 and 18 August 2003
University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, California

Abstract of Interview

Carolyn Bertozzi grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, the second of three girls. Her father was a nuclear physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her mother a secretary in MIT's physics department. Carolyn's father's four siblings, all born in Italy, also went into some branch of science. During the Great Depression Carolyn's maternal grandparents and uncle emigrated from Nova Scotia and established a farm. Carolyn's older sister, a "math genius" now teaches at Duke University, and her younger sister became a psychologist. It was expected that Carolyn and her sisters would do well in school, and Carolyn did, but she also played soccer in high school and was recruited to Harvard with what would be at any other school an athletic scholarship. She found soccer and later crew too time-consuming, however, and quit sports to devote herself to academics. She began as a biology major but in her second year took an organic chemistry class, which she loved, although she continued to take biology classes, she switched her major to chemistry. She was first in her class and eventually graduated summa cum laude, but Harvard's chemistry department was exclusively male at the time. As a result, she went to a lab in the biochemistry department, where Joseph Grabowski, her teacher for a physical organic chemistry class, asked her to work for him during the summer. He was so impressed with her work that he required her to write a graduation thesis, which he then submitted for an award of a substantial amount of money. He convinced her to go to graduate school at University of California at Berkeley. At Berkeley, she joined Mark Bednarski's bioorganic chemistry laboratory to study carbohydrates. Bednarski was also new, and Carolyn found him enthusiastic, and she wrote a number of grant proposals in his lab. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on the synthesis of carbohydrate analogues for biological applications. Continuing her interest in carbohydrates, and contrary to the advice of other chemists, Carolyn went to work in Steven Rosen's cell biology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco, for her postdoc. There she studied the role of carbohydrates in inflammation and leukocyte adhesion. After her postdoctoral work, she accepted an assistant professorship at the University of California at Berkeley and set up her own laboratory. She and Rosen also founded a private company, Thios Pharmaceuticals, Inc. At Berkeley she enjoys teaching, finding her students very intelligent, hard-working, and interesting. In the laboratory she writes (and gets) grants, mentors (particularly women), and sets problems. She has published many journal articles. Her current research interests continue in glycobiology, which she sees as having potentially a wider clinical application. Now a tenured professor, she has a number of academic appointments and steady funding. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1988 Harvard University AB Chemistry
1993 University of California, Berkeley PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

University of California, San Francisco

1993 to 1995
Postdoctoral Fellow, Program in Immunology and Department of Anatomy
2000 to 2004
Professor of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology

University of California, Berkeley

1996 to 1999
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
1999 to 2002
Associate Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology
2002 to 2004
Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

1996 to 2004
Faculty Associate, Materials Sciences Division
2000 to 2004
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Director, Biological Nanostructures Facility of The Molecular Foundry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1987

Radcliffe Science Research Fellowship

1987

Phi Beta Kappa

1987

Danforth Teaching Award

1988

New England American Institute of Chemists Award

1988

Thomas T. Hoopes Undergraduate Thesis Prize

1988 to 1991

Office of Naval Research Graduate Fellowship

1988 to 1993

AT&T Bell Laboratories Graduate Fellowship

1989

Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award

1990

Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award

1991 to 1992

American Chemical Society Medicinal Chemistry Graduate Fellowship

1992

Bruce Mahan Teaching Award

1993 to 1995

American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship

1995

Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award

1996

Exxon Education Fund Young Investigator Award

1996 to 2000

Pew Scholars Award in the Biomedical Sciences

1997

Burroughs Wellcome New Investigator Award in Pharmacology

1997

Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow

1997

Horace S. Isbell Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry (ACS)

1998

Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award

1998

Research Corporation Research Innovation Award

1998

Glaxo Wellcome Scholar

1998

Prytanean Faculty Award

1998

Beckman Young Investigator Award

1998 to 2000

Joel H. Hildebrand Chair in Chemistry

1999

Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (ACS)

1999

Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award

1999

MacArthur Foundation Award

2000

Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE)

2000

UC Berkeley Department of Chemistry Teaching Award

2000

Merck Academic Development Program Award

2001

ACS Award in Pure Chemistry

2001

UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award

2001

Donald Sterling Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

2002

Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

2002

Irving Sigal Young Investigator Award of the Protein Society

2003

Elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

2004

Iota Sigma Pi Agnes Fay Morgan Research Award

2005

Havinga Medal, Univ. Leiden

2005

T. Z. and Irmgard Chu Distinguished Professorship in Chemistry

2005

Elected member of the National Academy of Science

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Parental expectations. Childhood interests and experiences. Attends junior high school and high school in Lexington, Massachusetts. Extracurricular activities. Her interest in music. Her grandmother's socialism vs. her mother's Protestant Christianity.

College Years
17

Attends Harvard University, majoring in chemistry. On soccer team at first, then crew. College experiences. Influential teachers. Women in chemistry departments. Works in Joseph Grabowski's physical chemistry laboratory for her senior thesis project.

Graduate Years
28

Graduate school at University of California at Berkeley. More on women in chemistry departments. Works in Mark D. Bednarski's bioorganic chemistry laboratory. Bednarski's cancer. Bertozzi's doctoral dissertation on the synthesis of carbohydrate analogues for biological applications. Growing interest in biology.

Postgraduate Years
37

Bertozzi's postdoctoral work in Steven D. Rosen's cell biology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. Studies the role of carbohydrates in inflammation and leukocyte adhesion. Creativity in science. Experiences at the University of California, San Francisco.

Berkeley Years
51

Accepts position at the University of California at Berkeley, sets up laboratory. Helps establish Thios Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Her teaching. Communications skills in science. Her mentoring style. Her role in the laboratory. Research on tubercle bacillus. Writing journal articles.

Continuing at Berkeley
73

Bertozzi's current research in glycobiology chemistry. Qualities of a good scientist. Her students. Bertozzi's future research. Wider application of her work. Privatization of science. Life as a principal investigator. Patents. Impact of technology on her research. Bertozzi's academic appointments and scientific goals. Funding. Tenure at Berkeley. Balancing personal life and career. Gender issues in science. Bertozzi's partner. Women graduate students and principal investigators.

Index
125

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan