Andrew Camilli

Born: September 27, 1963 | Lima, OH, US
Photograph of Andrew Camilli

Andrew Camilli was born in Lima, Ohio. After a brief foray into computer science, he attended University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to study biology and medical microbiology. There he had the opportunity to work with Robert B. Helling and Julian Adams. He attended Washington University for grad school, rotating through Daniel A. Portnoy's, William L. Goldwin's, and Roy Curtiss III's laboratories. When Portnoy left for University of Pennsylvania, Camilli followed to complete his doctoral work on the genes for virulence factors in Listeria monocytogenes. After a postdoc, he accepted a position at Tufts University School of Medicine, where he focused his lab on genetic expression in Vibrio cholerae and gene regulation in Streptococcus pneumonia. He discusses his changing roles in the laboratory, teaching responsibilities, management style, and more. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0591
No. of pages: 121
Minutes: 500

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
7, 8, 10 and 11 October 2002
Tufts University Medical School Boston, Massachusetts

Abstract of Interview

Andrew Camilli was born in Lima, Ohio, a factory town, the fifth of seven children. After Andrew's birth, the family moved to Flint, Michigan, where his father worked as a banker. Camilli's parents were both quite influential in his intellectual development, both being proponents of obtaining a good education. His father's broad interests also introduced Andrew to science at a young age. He attended a public grammar school and then a parochial high school while in Flint, reading about science, being interested in and playing sports (though not for high school teams). He enrolled at the University of Michigan, Flint, intending to pursue a degree in computer science, but after taking a human genetics course, he decided he wanted a career in biological research. Soon he transferred to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to study biology and medical microbiology. While an undergraduate he had the opportunity to work in Robert B. Helling's and Julian Adams's laboratories, as well an opportunity to intern during his summers at Pharmacia and Upjohn (about which he addressed the pros and cons of being in industry). After graduation, Camilli matriculated at Washington University in St. Louis, rotating through Daniel A. Portnoy's, William L. Goldwin's, and Roy Curtiss III's laboratories. When Portnoy left for the University of Pennsylvania, Camilli followed in order to complete his doctoral work on the genes for virulence factors in Listeria monocytogenes. He undertook a postdoctoral fellowship in John J. Mekalanos's lab at Harvard University focusing on a recombinase reporter system for genetic expression before accepting a faculty position at the Tufts University School of Medicine. After setting up his own laboratory Camilli received the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award providing him with funding to explore important and interesting directions in his research. Genes remained the central aspect of his science, so he focused his lab on genetic expression in Vibrio cholerae and gene regulation in Streptococcus pneumoniae, which, he acknowledges, has practical applications to understandings of health and disease. The interview concludes with Camilli's reflections on various topics related to his science, his life, and his career. He discusses the ways in which his role in the laboratory has changed over time, his teaching responsibilities, his management style, especially as it relates to his mentors' styles, and balancing his career with his family. He ends with his thoughts on competition in science; the national research agenda; collaboration; and, of course, what he enjoys most about being a scientist. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1987 University of Michigan BS Microbiology
1992 University of Pennsylvania PhD Microbiology

Professional Experience

Harvard Medical School

1992 to 1995
Postdoctoral Fellow, Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund

Tufts University School of Medicine

1995 to 2003
Assistant Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1983

William J. Branstrom Award for Academic Achievement, University of Michigan

1983

Michigan Competitive Scholarship, University of Michigan

1987

Graduated with high distinction, University of Michigan

1992 to 1995

Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund Postdoctoral Fellowship Award

1997 to 2001

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Award

2002

Eli Lilly and Company Research Award

Table of Contents

Childhood and Early Years
1

Family background. Father's influence. Childhood interests in reading and science. Childhood experiences. Religion. Mother and siblings. Early schooling in public grammar school and parochial high school in Flint, Michigan. Influential high school friend. Interests in sports and reading about science. Social life in high school.

College and Graduate School
27

Employment during his school years. Early role model. Begins the University of Michigan, Flint, as a computer science major. Decides on a career in biological research after taking a human genetics course. Decision to major in biology. Transfers to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Specializes in medical microbiology. Works in Robert B. Helling's and Julian Adams's laboratories. Meets Daniel A. Portnoy. Summer internship at Pharmacia & UpjohnPros and cons of working in industry. Begins graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis. Rotates through Portnoy's, William L. Goldwin's, and Roy Curtiss, III's laboratories. Transfers to the University of Pennsylvania for his PhD work in Portnoy's lab. Portnoy's mentoring style. Thesis project on the genes for virulence factors in Listeria monocytogenes.

Postdoctoral Work at Tufts University
44

More on thesis project on the genes for virulence factors in Listeria Monocytogenes. Meets John J. Mekalanos. Postdoctoral research in Mekalanos's laboratory on a recombinase reporter system for genetic expression. Mekalanos’s mentoring style. Typical workday as a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow. Accepts position at Tufts University School of Medicine. Setting up his laboratory. Funding history. Pew Scholars Program in theBiomedical Sciences funding. Current research on the genetic expression in Vibrio cholerae and gene regulation in Streptococcus pneumoniae. Influence of funding sources on his research ideas.

Current Research and Scientific Life
65

Research on gene regulation Streptococcus pneumoniae. Practical applications of his research. Administrative duties. Role in the laboratory. Teaching. Tenure. Writing journal articles. Lab management style. Handling personal interactions in the lab. Balancing family and career. Leisure activities. Professional goals. Patents. Technology and technological advances. Competition in science. Peer-review system. Criteria for prioritizing research projects. National research agenda.

Final Thoughts
99

Collaboration in science. Public policy and science literacy. Privatization of scientific research. Makeup of lab. Gender issues in science. Minority representation in science. Being a principal investigator. Career he might have pursued. Final remarks.

Index
118

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten