Lynn Cooley

Born: July 18, 1955 | Middletown, CT, US

Lynn Cooley grew up in Portland, Connecticut, where her parents were scientists. She studied zoology at Connecticut College, then attended the University of Texas, where she studied biochemistry and worked in Kwan Wang's lab. After finishing her master's degree, she became a lab technician for Joanne Ravel, then transferred to Dieter Söll's lab at Yale University. He suggested she complete her PhD at the University of Texas while working in his lab. After finishing her degree, Cooley accepted a postdoc at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, where she began researching the regulation of expression in follicle cells, research she continued at Yale. Cooley discusses scientific issues, the impact of molecular techniques on developmental biology, improving the public's understanding of research, and trends in funding. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 430
No. of pages: 71
Minutes: 250

Interview Sessions

Marcia L. Meldrum
4-5, and 7 March 1996
Yale University Medical School New Haven, Connecticut

Abstract of Interview

Lynn Cooley grew up in Portland, Connecticut, the middle child of five. Her father was in aeronautical engineering and her mother in physics, so she had a very early introduction, if not a genetic predisposition, to science. In high school she liked chemistry and mathematics courses best and finished all of those available by the end of her junior year. In consultation with her guidance counselor, she decided to graduate in only three years and to start college. Cooley matriculated into Connecticut College, where she majored in zoology. In college she discovered modern dance. She also took a semester off to take a course at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, which led to her participation on a research cruise. During a later summer course at Woods Hole Cooley discovered biochemistry and immediately decided that was what she wanted to do. She applied to graduate schools, entering the University of Texas, where she persuaded Kwan Wang to take her into his lab to work on cytoskeletal proteins. She continued her dancing as well, using it often as a release from growing tension in Wang's lab. Eventually she decided to leave the university after completing her master's degree, at which point she worked as a lab technician for Joanne Ravel and performed with a modern dance company. Wanting to return to the East Coast, she transferred to Dieter Söll's lab at Yale University, where he later suggested she complete her PhD at the University of Texas while conducting research in his lab. Cooley then accepted a postdoc appointment in Allan Spradling's lab at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Baltimore, Maryland, where she began researching the regulation of expression in follicle cells. She also developed a focus on the kelch and chickadee genes. This research continued when Cooley started her own lab at the Yale School of Medicine, in conjunction with students Feiyu Xue and Esther Verheyen. The lab's research divided into two components: genes related to the function of ring canals and genes related to the regulation of actin in nurse cells. In the meantime, Cooley earned a pilot's license and married her husband, Ted Killiam, with whom she has a daughter. Cooley discusses the scientific and academic issues she finds critical, including cutbacks in science funding, the impact of molecular techniques on developmental biology, the need to improve the public's understanding of basic research, and shifting trends in funding. She concludes the interview by expressing her satisfaction with her career. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1976 Connecticut College BA
1979 University of Texas at Austin MA
1984 University of Texas at Austin PhD

Professional Experience

Carnegie Institution of Washington

1984 to 1988
Postdoctoral Fellow

Yale University School of Medicine

1989 to 1994
Assistant Professor
1994 to 1997
Associate Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1976

E. Frances Botsford Prize in Zoology

1984 to 1986

Runyon-Winchell Fellow, Cancer Research Fund of the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation

1989 to 1990

Hull Cancer Research Award, Yale Cancer Center

1991 to 1995

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Growing up in Portland, Connecticut. Family background. Early graduation from high school. Working at a summer camp on Lake Winnipesaukee. Influences.

College Years
5

Acceptance at Connecticut College. Zoology major. College science courses. Interest in dance. Taking a semester off to take class at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. Research cruise. Working at a veterinarian's hospital.

Graduate Years
11

Biochemistry at University of Texas. Culture shock in Texas. Working on cytoskeletal proteins in the Kwan Wang lab. Joining a modern dance company. Leaving school after completing master's degree. Working as a lab technician for Joanne Ravel. Transferring to Dieter Söll's lab at ale. CompletingUniversity of Texas PhD while conducting research at Yale.

Postgraduate Years
21

Accepts postdoc at Carnegie Institution of Washington in the Allan Spradling's lab. The spatial regulation of expression in follicle cells. Develops protocols for doing mutagenesis with P elements. Studying kelch and chickadee. Search for a principal investigator position.

Faculty Years
35

Accepts position at Yale University. Feiyu Xue's discovery that the kelch gene localizes to ring canals. Esther Verheyen's work on chickadee. Lab's divided focus on genes related to the function of ring canals and genes related to the regulation of actin in nurse cells. Devising genetic screens to look for interacting proteins. The grant application process. Research on mammalian putative kelch homologues. Lab collaborations. Earning a pilot's license. Meeting her husband, Ted Killiam. Balancing work and family life. Guest editing Developmental Genetics.

Scientific and Academic Issues
60

Writing scientific papers. Interactions with the oogenesis subgroup within the Drosophila research community. Funding. The role of chickadee and singed genes in bristle development. The impact of molecular techniques on developmental biology. The Human Genome Project. Need to improve the public's understanding of basic research. Professional organizations. Satisfaction with her career.

Index
69

About the Interviewer

Marcia L. Meldrum