Richard W. Carthew

Born: September 5, 1956 | Toronto, CA

Richard W. Carthew was born in Toronto, Canada. He attended Queen's University for ecology and worked for Seward R. Brown. His thesis work was laboratory based, resulting in a publication on the thermodynamics of photosynthetic adaptation to photon fluence rate in the cyanophyte. He became a research technician for Jack F. Greenblatt at the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research and contributed to work isolating three proteins that bind to RNA polymerase II. He attended Massachusetts of Technology for graduate school, where he develop an interest in neurobiology and decided on a postdoctoral fellowship with Gerald M. Rubin at the University of California, Berkeley. From there he accepted a position at University of Pittsburgh, where he studied ras oncogene, which led to consulting work for the Chiron Corporation. 

Access This Interview

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0627
No. of pages: 130
Minutes: 550

Interview Sessions

Helene L. Cohen
2-3 and 5 July 2001
University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

Richard W. Carthew was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, the second youngest, and only son, of four siblings. His father received a degree in civil engineering from Queen's University and worked for the province-run hydro-electric utility, Ontario Hydro; his mother was a homemaker. From an early age he was interested in exploring the great outdoors—studying insects, climbing trees, and the like—he played piano, and tobogganed. He excelled in school until junior high and high school when he found the subjects uninteresting, though he regained his interest during his senior year, especially due to classes in science (chemistry and biology) and mathematics. Carthew entered Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada with an interest in ecology; he had the opportunity to work for Seward R. Brown, an ecological paleontologist. Though he was hoping to be in the field for his senior thesis work, most of the research on which Brown wanted Carthew to work was laboratory based, serving to further his interest in science and resulting in a publication on the thermodynamics of photosynthetic adaptation to photon fluence rate in the cyanophyte. After completing his undergraduate degree he went on to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music while also pursuing a master's in botany at the University of Toronto. Then he became a research technician in Jack F. Greenblatt's laboratory at the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research at the university and contributed to work isolating three proteins that bind to RNA polymerase II; Greenblatt encouraged him to apply to graduate school. He chose to attend the Massachusetts of Technology and selected to study in Phillip A. Sharp's laboratory, working on transcription regulation (also researching with and training Stephen Buratowski, Pew Class of 1995). While in Sharp's lab, though, Carthew began to develop an interest in neurobiology, deciding, then, to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship with Gerald M. Rubin at the University of California, Berkeley. From there he accepted a faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh, where he studied the ras oncogene; his work on ras led to consulting work for the Chiron Corporation. The interview ends with Carthew's thoughts on the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences; race and gender issues in science; combining the teaching of the history of science with methodological and technical approaches; using kits in the lab; his love of sailing; and the ways in which fatherhood has changed his views about his career. The interview concludes with a discussion of his current research on RNAi and frizzled; the application of his work to Alzheimer's disease; patents; competition and collaboration; ethics, laboratory practice, and laboratory research; and his pending move to Northwestern University. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1978 Queens University BSc Biology
1980 University of Toronto MSc Botany
1987 Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD Biology

Professional Experience

University of Toronto

1980 to 1982
Research Technician, Banting and Best Department of Medical Research

University of California, Berkeley

1987 to 1992
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology

University of Pittsburgh

1992 to 1998
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
1998 to 2001
Associate Professor, Department of Biological Studies
2001
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

Chiron Corporation

1995 to 1999
Scientific Consultant

Northwestern University

2001 to 2003
Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1990 to 1992

Howard Hughes Postdoctoral Fellowship

1995 to 2000

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1997

Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award, University of Pittsburgh

Table of Contents

Early Years, College, and Entering Graduate School
1

Family background. Childhood interests and experiences. ReligiousUpbringing. Present attitudes toward religion. Attending public schools in TorontoCanada. Junior high and high school. Canadian school system. Extracurricular activities. Influential teachers. Decides to attend Queen's University. Family expectations. Works in Seward R. Brown's laboratory at Queen's University. Studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music while pursuing a master's degree in botany at University of Toronto. Meets his future wife, Janet E. MacDermid. Takes a research technician position in JackF. Greenblatt's laboratory at the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research. Greenblatt encourages Carthew to pursue a PhD in the United States. Decides to study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Life as a Canadian in the United States. Graduate program at MITSelecting Phillip A. Sharp's lab.

Life in Graduate School, Postdoctoral Work, and a Faculty Position
37

Jack Greenblatt's lab management style. Phil Sharp's lab management and student mentoring styles. Writes first paper while in Sharp's lab. Emerging interest in neurobiology. Decides to do a postdoc in Gerald M. Rubin's lab at University of California, Berkeley. Balancing work and family life. Hunting forjobs in the United States and Canada. Accepts a position at University of Pittsburgh. Research on the ras oncogene leads to consulting work for Chiron Corporation. Starting his lab at Pittsburgh. The grant-writing process.

Receiving the Pew Scholarship and Life at the University of Pittsburgh
62

Impact of the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences award. Tenure process at University of Pittsburgh. Teaching responsibilities. Race and gender issues in science. Lab management style. Doing benchwork. Travel commitments. Administrative responsibilities. Sabbatical in his own lab. Combining teaching the history of science with methodological and technical approaches. Advantages and drawbacks of using kits in the lab. Leisure pursuits. A typical workday. Reading interests. Love of sailing. Fatherhood.

Current Research, Reflection on Science, and Moving to Northwestern
91

Current research on RNAi. Applications of his work in the study of Alzheimer's Disease. Importance of conversation in stimulating scientific ideas. Role of serendipity in science. Patents. Competition and collaboration. Ethical issues in science. Animals in laboratory research. Professional and personal goals. What he likes most and least about being a scientist. What he would do if he wasn't a scientist. Future research and professional plans. Pending move toNorthwestern University. Thoughts on the challenges of recording the history of science.

Index
127

About the Interviewer

Helene L. Cohen