Charles E. Connor
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Charles E. Connor was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, spending the first few years of his life in Parkville, but then moving with his family to Towson, a suburb nestled in a wooded area through which Connor used to love to run. He grew up with some relatives who had a science background; religion also played an important role in Connor's upbringing (as well as later in life). Throughout his early education, Connor had an inkling that he wanted to be a scientist, despite a bevy of other talents and interests; with his junior high and high school science classes that feeling solidified. He attended Loyola College in Maryland and, after some time in various labs, chose Vanderbilt University for his master's degree in pharmacology. He attended the University of Maryland to pursue a degree in law, but after finishing law school, he realized that the career was not for him. Connor then entered the neuroscience program at Johns Hopkins University began his work with Kenneth Johnson. In the lab, Connor focused his studies on neural signaling for texture. He stayed at Hopkins for a postdoctoral fellowship with Gian F. Poggi and Michael Steinmetz, and then continued to another postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis with David C. Van Essen. Ultimately, Connor returned to Hopkins for a faculty position in the neuroscience department, where his research has focused on his long-term research goal: an understanding of the neural code for object shape in the brain. The availability of both funding and of students, topics Connor discusses at length, has shaped—and, he believes, will continue to shape—his research. While there is currently no industrial application for his research, he and some of his students have explored possible future applications, including a visual prosthesis and machine vision. His work in the lab, which historically included managing students, designing and overseeing production of new equipment, and benchwork, has evolved with the lab's growing reputation and Connor's added responsibilities, including teaching, writing grants, and administrative tasks. The interview concludes with Connor's reflections on another task that occupies some of his professional time, writing journal articles, and on the effect these publications have on his lab and his science. He talks about the role of creativity, serendipity, and technology in his research, and broader issues such as the national scientific agenda, ethics, and the public's view of science. Finally, the interview ends with his comments on the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Science and his happiness with being a principal investigator.
|1982||Vanderbilt University School of Medicine||MS||Pharmacology|
|1989||Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine||PhD||Neuroscience|
Washington University School of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
|1998 to 2002||
Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
Table of Contents
Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland. Family background. Parents. Sister. Marriages. Son. Religion. Childhood experiences. Interests as a boy and young man. Early schooling. Interest in reading. Influential teachers. First biology class in junior high school. Extracurricular activities. Parental expectations.
Attends Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland. Defining moment in aphilosophy course. College experiences. Master's degree in pharmacology from Vanderbilt University. Attends law school at the University of Maryland. Decision to pursue science rather than law. Enters the neuroscience graduate program at Johns Hopkins University. Works with Kenneth Johnson. Johnson's laboratory management style. Research project in neurophysiology on the neuralsignal for texture. Ethics of experimenting on primates. Typical day in graduate school. Neuroscience department at Johns Hopkins University. Postdoctoral fellowships at Johns Hopkins with Gian F. Poggi and Michael Steinmetz. Postdoctoral fellowship with David C. Van Essen at Washington University in St. Louis. Van Essen's laboratory management style.
Work in David Van Essen's laboratory in systems neuroscience on themechanisms of visual attention. Accepts a position at Johns Hopkins University. Setting up his lab. Tenure at Johns Hopkins University. Current research in the neurophysiology of vision on how the brain represents shape. Wife's career. Future research on the neurophysiology of shape recognition. Professional goals. Practical applications of research. Funding history. Role in the lab. Administrative duties. Teaching responsibilities.
Grant-writing process. Typical workday. Leisure activities. Management style. Writing journal articles. Competition. History of science. Patents. Privatization of scientific research. Role of the scientist in educating the public about science. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.