Christopher A. Bradfield

Born: March 6, 1958 | San Francisco, CA, US

Christopher Bradfield grew up near San Francisco, California. Calling himself a late bloomer, he began to see the value in learning only after high school. He received a two-year degree from Skyline College and his BA from University of California, Davis. Bradfield next attended the University of California, Berkeley, entering Leonard F. Bjeldanes' lab. He became so involved in his project that he finished a PhD instead of a master's degree. He then took a postdoc in Alan P. Poland's lab at the University of Wisconsin, where he flourished. He briefly accepted a position at Northwestern University before moving to McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at University of Wisconsin. Throughout the interview, Bradfield discusses creativity in science, laboratory work, planning research, and more. 

Access This Interview

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0435
No. of pages: 99
Minutes: 500

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
2-4 December 1997
McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research Madison, Wisconsin

Abstract of Interview

Christopher Bradfield grew up in the San Francisco, California, area. His early schooling was in Daly City, California, and he attended high school in Half Moon Bay. He has an older brother and a younger sister. His father obtained his PhD in psychology from University of California, Berkeley, during years of social upheaval, and Bradfield can remember being on campus during those times. Bradfield's mother suffered from cancer for several years during Bradfield's early adolescence, dying when he was in high school. He finished his schooling intending to become a soccer coach. Bradfield applied to college because his father was a professor and expected his children to go to college. Finally, calling himself a late bloomer, he began to see the value in learning and displayed an aptitude for sciences, which a biology teacher at his community college encouraged Bradfield to pursue. He particularly admires the elegance of scientific solutions. He received a two-year degree from Skyline College and his BA from University of California, Davis. Bradfield ponders the questions of whether scientists are born or made; the role of serendipity in science; and types of intelligence. Bradfield decided to get a master's degree from University of California, Berkeley and he entered Leonard F. Bjeldanes' lab, where his research involved identifying indoles; he became so involved in his project that he finished a PhD instead of a master's degree. By then, he had realized that environmental and nutritional issues must be dealt with in the political arena, not simply the laboratory. Bradfield decided to accept a postdoc in Alan P. Poland's lab at the University of Wisconsin. Under Alan Poland's influence Bradfield flourished, beginning work on the AH purifying proteins. He then accepted an assistant professorship at Northwestern University, where he was unable to do the work he had anticipated, so he moved to McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at University of Wisconsin. Bradfield discusses his concern about the lack of creativity in most science; differences between good and great scientists; his love of laboratory work; his frustration with scientific journals; the status of the "scientific method" in current research. He explains how he decides what research projects the lab should pursue; the present status of his dioxin research and unpublished work on the relationship between dioxin and hypoxia; and doing research at McArdle. He puts forth his views on the best way to structure research institutions and compares the funding of science at McArdle and at Northwestern University. Bradfield then reverts to the personal, talking about his own funding, his reasons for becoming a scientist; the advantages of not leading research in one's own field; keeping his lab afloat financially; the goals of his dioxin research; his patents; and the impact of his winning the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences award. Back to the larger picture, he talks about possible breakthroughs in gene therapy and disease intervention; his thoughts on the training of future MD's; dangers of government policy masquerading as science. He finishes with a discussion of his family life. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1979 Skyline College AA
1982 University of California, Davis BA
1982 University of California, Berkeley PhD

Professional Experience

University of Wisconsin Medical School

1986 to 1989
Postdoctoral Fellow, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research
1996 to 1998
Associate Professor of Oncology, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research

Northwestern University Medical School

1989 to 1994
Assistant Professor of Pharmacology
1994 to 1996
Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1989

Cancer Research Foundation Young Investigator Award

1992 to 1996

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1996 to 2001

Burroughs-Wellcome Scholar in Toxicology

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Childhood in the San Francisco area. Family background. Early schooling in Daly City. Attends high school in Half Moon Bay. Brother's writings. Biology teacher encourages Bradfield to pursue science. Father's influence as a college professor. Influence of the social climate of the sixties. Religion.

College, Graduate School, and Postdoctoral Years
25

Types of intelligence. Introduction to biology. The ease and elegance of scientific solutions. Role of serendipity in science. Decision to enter the Alan P. Poland lab. Studies nutrition at University of California, Berkeley. Research in the Leonard F. Bjeldanes lab identifying indoles. Daniel E. Gottschling. Thedifference between good and great scientists. His love of laboratory work. Begins work on the Ah purifying proteins in Poland's lab. Scientific journals. The scientific method in current research. Realization that AHR was not a steroid receptor. Studies dioxin toxicity.

Faculty Years
58

Current dioxin research. Unpublished work on the relationship between dioxin and hypoxia. Restrictions on the size of Bradfield's laboratory. Well-known scientists at McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research. Doing research at McArdle. Way to structure research institutions. The funding of science at McArdle and at Northwestern University. Private versus public funding sourcesin science.

Final Thoughts
77

Possible breakthroughs in gene therapy and disease intervention. Thoughts on the training of future MD's. Patents and the commercialization of scientific discovery. Family life. The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.

Index
96

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan