Arul M. Chinnaiyan

Born: December 6, 1969 | Cleveland, OH, US

Arul M. Chinnaiyan was born near Cleveland, Ohio, but spent his first years in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, the elder of two sons whose parents came from India. Chinnaiyan decided to attend the University of Michigan, working in Stephen Weiss's lab during summers and part time during the school year on proteases in neutrophils. He entered the Medical Scientist Training Program at University of Michigan to obtain an MD/PhD and eventually joined Vishva Dixit's lab to study apoptosis. From his research came the discovery of FADD, as well as twenty-one publications. After three years of research, Peter Ward persuaded him to complete his residency in clinical pathology at the University of Michigan. He established his lab and became interested in studying biomarkers for prostate cancer. He started a DNA microarray facility too. Chinnaiyan remained at Michigan as an assistant professor in pathology and urology and established the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0650
No. of pages: 57
Minutes: 149

Interview Sessions

David J. Caruso
21 and 22 October 2008
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Michigan

Abstract of Interview

Arul M. Chinnaiyan was born near Cleveland, Ohio, but spent his first years in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, the elder of two sons whose parents came from India. His father was an electrical engineer, his mother a housewife. When Chinnaiyan was about thirteen the family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his father had taken a job. Chinnaiyan had always liked the sciences, but his high school biology teacher made the subject come alive. He was also interested in computers and sports, especially tennis, playing on his high school team. By his junior year in high school, Chinnaiyan says he knew he wanted to study molecular biology or cell biology. Because it was a good school for biology; because it was close to home; because his father was ill with diabetes; and because the tuition was manageable, Chinnaiyan decided to attend the University of Michigan. He worked in Stephen Weiss's lab during summers and part time during the school year. There he worked on proteases in neutrophils with his mentor. Chinnaiyan's father died while Chinnaiyan was in college; this helped him decide to enter the Medical Scientist Training Program at University of Michigan to obtain an MD/PhD. He began in Jeffrey Bonadio's lab, where he learned molecular biology, but he became fascinated by apoptosis and joined Vishva Dixit's lab at a time when the field of apoptosis was growing rapidly. From his research came the discovery of FADD, as well as twenty-one publications, some of which he had to hand deliver in order to beat his competitors. After three years of research, Peter Ward persuaded him to complete his residency in clinical pathology at the University of Michigan. He established his lab and became interested in studying biomarkers for prostate cancer. He started a DNA microarray facility too. Chinnaiyan remained at Michigan as an assistant professor in pathology and urology. He established the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology. He had not been trained to write grants, but he made up for lost time, winning many awards and honors and becoming a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. At the end of the interview he talks about learning to write grants and discusses his application for the Pew Scholars in the Medical Sciences award. He describes how he recruits students and postdocs; talks about publishing; and talks about lab time. He concludes his interview with thanks to his mother, who helped make all his work possible. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1992 University of Michigan BS Cellular and Molecular Biology
1999 University of Michigan MD/PhD Pathology, under Vishva M. Dixit

Professional Experience

University of Michigan School of Medicine

1992 to 1999
MD/PhD Fellow, Medical Scientist Training Program
1999 to 2001
House Officer, Clinical Pathology Laboratories
1999 to 2001
Research Investigator, Pathology
1999 to 2009
Director, Pathology Microarray Laboratory, Pathology
2001 to 2004
Assistant Professor, Pathology and Urology
2002 to 2004
Director, Tissue/Informatics Core, UM Prostate S.P.O.R.E.
2004 to 2009
Director, Cancer Bioinformatics, Comprehensive Cancer Center
2005 to 2009
Director, Pathology Research Informatics, Pathology
2004 to 2006
Associate Professor, Pathology and Urology
2006 to 2009
S.P. Hicks Endowed Developmental Professorship
2006 to 2009
Professor, Pathology and Urology
2007 to 2009
Director, Michigan Center for Translational Pathology
2008 to 2009
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Honors

Year(s) Award
1998

Horace H. Rackham Distinguished Dissertation Award, Rackham School of Graduate Studies, University of Michigan

1998

Amersham Pharmacia Biotech and Science Prize, North American Region, Uppsala, Sweden

1999

Medical Degree “With Distinction in Research,” University of Michigan Medical School

1999

Faculty Development Award, Prostate S.P.O.R.E., University of Michigan Medical School

1999

Dean’s Award for Research Excellence, University of Michigan Medical School

2000

Cheryl Whitlock Pathology Memorial Prize, Stanford University School of Medicine

2001

CapCURE Research Award

2001

Wendy Will Case Cancer Fund Award

2002

Excellence in Urologic Pathology Research, USCAP Annual Meeting

2002 to 2006

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences 

2004

Young Investigator Award, Society of Basic Urological Research

2005

Amgen Outstanding Investigator Award, American Society for Investigative Pathology

2005

Basic Science Research Award, University of Michigan Medical School Dean’s Office

2006

The Benjamin Castleman Award, United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology

2006

Elected Member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation

2006

S.P. Hiocks Endowed Professor of Pathology

2006

Burroughs Wellcome Foundation Award for Clincal Translational Research

2007

United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology Ramzi Cotran Young Investigator Award

2007

Society of American Asian Scientists in Cancer Research Award

2007

Inaugural AACR Team Science Award, Americn Association of Cancer Research 

2007

SPORE Translational Science Award

2008

Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research, American Association of Cancer Research

2008

Department of Defense Era of Hope Scholar

2009

Doris Duke Foundation Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award for Excellence in “Bench to Bedside” Research

2009

Elected Member of the Association of American Physicians

2009

American Cancer Society Research Professor

2009

Elected Member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies

2009

Philip Levine Award for Outstanding Research, American Society of Clinical Pathology

2009

Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under 40 Award

2009

Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

First years in Chicago suburb. Family background. Early interest in biology, computers, and sports. Tennis team. Schools. Move to Michigan. High school interest in molecular biology or cell biology. Science Olympiad.

College Years
7

Matriculates into the University of Michigan. Father's diabetes. Liberal arts curriculum. Possible art history major. Deciding on biology major. Works on proteases in neutrophils in Stephen Weiss' lab. Honors thesis. Deciding to go into medicine. Switching to interest in research. Decides on MD/PhD program.

Graduate School/Medical School Years
17

Chooses University of Michigan. Structure of MD/PhD program. Rotates into Jeffrey Bonadio's lab to learn more molecular biology. Fascinated by new field of apoptosis. Joins Vishva Dixit's lab. Discovering FADD. Fast-growing, competitive field of apoptosis. Twenty-one papers. Residency in clinical pathology. Designing his own lab, courtesy of Peter Ward. Interest in prostate cancer. Sets up DNA microarray facility.

Faculty Years
30

Goes straight from residency to faculty position at University of Michigan. Minimal clinical work. Writes first grant. Discusses grants in general, Pew in particular. Gene fusion in application for Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant. Establishes Michigan Center for Translational Pathology. Epigenetics; genomics; proteomics; metabolomics. Time at bench; publishing; recruiting students and postdocs.

Index
56

About the Interviewer

David J. Caruso

David J. Caruso earned a BA in the history of science, medicine, and technology from Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and a PhD in science and technology studies from Cornell University in 2008. Caruso is the director of the Center for Oral History at the Science History Institute, president of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and editor for the Oral History Review. In addition to overseeing all oral history research at the Science History Institute, he also holds an annual training institute that focuses on conducting interviews with scientists and engineers, he consults on various oral history projects, like at the San Diego Technology Archives, and is adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching courses on the history of military medicine and technology and on oral history.  His current research interests are the discipline formation of biomedical science in 20th-century America and the organizational structures that have contributed to such formation.