James A. Borowiec

Born: July 6, 1958 | Buffalo, NY, US
Photograph of James A. Borowiec

James Anthony Borowiec was born in Buffalo, New York, and was interested in science from an early age. He received his BS in Organic Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1980, and his PhD in biochemistry from UCLA in 1986. Borowiec worked in Paul D. Boyer's laboratory at the Molecular Biology Institute, and then in Jay D. Gralla's laboratory. He researched DNA supercoiling; lac; and footprinting technique. He obtained a post-doc at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 1989 he was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry at New York University Medical Center. His work continues there, encompassing replication of linear DNA, flaws in C. Richard Wobbe's discovery of SSB DNA, T-antigen, ARS, and bovine papillomavirus. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0411
No. of pages: 236
Minutes: 750

Interview Sessions

Neil D. Hathaway
14, 17, 23 September 1993, 1, 9-10 October 1993
New York University Medical Center New York, New York

Abstract of Interview

James Anthony Borowiec was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1958, the youngest of four children. His father was a union lawyer, interested in local politics, and his mother was a housewife. His extended family, of Polish descent, lived also in the "Polish neighborhood" where they celebrated holidays and family events together. While still a child, Borowiec and his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Borowiec had a Catholic education through high school. Although he says now that science was not well taught, he was interested in science from an early age. Borowiec received his BS in Organic Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1980. While there he worked in a chemistry lab during the school year. During one summer he worked for the U. S. Forest Service in Elko, Nevada. He matriculated into the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA, where he received his PhD in 1986. At UCLA he also met and married Dianne Applegate, a fellow scientist. Borowiec did a rotation in Paul D. Boyer's laboratory, at the Molecular Biology Institute, and then in Jay D. Gralla's laboratory. He worked on DNA supercoiling; lac; and footprinting technique. After receiving his PhD he obtained a post-doc in the Department of Molecular Biology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. There he worked in Jerard Hurwitz's lab, studying SV40 per se and as a model of human DNA replication. In 1989 he was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry at New York University Medical Center in New York City. His work continues there, encompassing over the years an interest in replication of linear DNA; flaws in C. Richard Wobbe's discovery of SSB DNA; T-antigen; ARS; and particularly bovine papillomavirus. Borowiec and his wife, Dianne, who works in her lab at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and his 2-1/2-year-old son, Zachary, live in Greenwich Village, where they attempt to balance the demands of scientific research and publication with the demands of family life. Borowiec has received several grants, including a post-doc and a grant from the NIH and a Pew Scholars Program grant. He has published many articles on a number of subjects; the articles appear in many different journals, including JMB, Biochemistry, Cell, and PNAS

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1980 Georgia Institute of Technology BS Organic Chemistry
1986 University of California, Los Angeles PhD Chemistry and Biochemistry

Professional Experience

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

1986 to 1989
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular Biology, Laboratory of Dr. Jerard Hurwitz

New York University Medical Center

1989 to 1994
Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1982 to 1985

United States Public Health Service National Research Service Award

1986 to 1989

National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship

1990 to 1998

National Institutes of Health Grant

1990 to 1994

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1991

Yamagiwa-Yoshida Memorial International Cancer Study Grant

Table of Contents

Growing Up
1

Polish Catholic ancestry and traditions. Extended family. Early years in Buffalo, New York. Move to Atlanta, Georgia. Early interest in science. Catholic school education.

College Years
39

Attends Georgia Institute of Technology, majoring in chemistry. Interest shifts to biology. Works in Georgia Tech chemistry lab. Summer job in Nevada with U. S. Forest Service. Works on satellite technology.

Graduate School Years
60

Enters UCLA's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Rotation in Paul D. Boyer lab. UCLA's Molecular Biology Institute. Current thoughts about qualities of scientist; departmental structure of biological sciences; applications of research; funding and research trends. Competition for funding. Rotation in Jay D. Gralla's lab. Research on DNA supercoiling. Lac promoter. Footprinting technique. Potassium permanganate. Need to study DNA in vitro. Cataloging versus analysis.

Post-doc Year
74

Jerard Hurwitz lab at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Meets and marries Dianne Applegate. SV40 replication as model of human DNA replication. Progress in understanding DNA replication, need to learn more. SV40 initiator complex. Purifying proteins. C. Richard Wobbe's discovery of SSB DNA protein. Flaws in Wobbe's original work. Robert T. Tjian's work on SV40 T-antigen. Bruce Stillman's influence on field. John F. Diffley's work on ARS.

Continuing Research
145

More on Hurwitz lab. Interest in replication of linear DNA. Rush to publish results versus meaningful research. Work on bovine papillomavirus. Focusing on initiation phase of replication. Publication criteria, competition.

Faults in the System
176

Rushed pace of research prevents deep thought; need for long-term research grants. Undertaking risky projects. Funding. Difficulties recruiting qualified students into science. NYU's graduate program. Juggling research demands and family life. Wife's lab at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Son, Zachary. Science-illiterate public. Political pressures on science funding. Zen Buddhism.

Index
229

About the Interviewer

Neil D. Hathaway