Julia P. Cooper
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Julia P. Cooper was born in Morristown, New Jersey, one of three children. Her father was at first an engineer, then a psychologist interested in the psychology of vision. At first Julia lived in Trumbull, Connecticut, but when she was in elementary school, her family moved to Washington, D.C., where her father had a job with the Army Research Institute, studying how people see in order to make them see more efficiently. Her mother worked with early computers at Bell Laboratories until her children were born; after they were in junior high school, she and a friend started their own business indexing, mostly for the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Julia’s brother was an engineer but left the field for work with computers; her sister owns a gourmet food store.
Julia felt that her early schooling was uninspiring; it was only in college that she discovered biology. During her high school summers she worked as a waitress and one summer travelled to Yugoslavia with her father. She began Emory University planning to be a geologist, but a biology class introduced her to plant physiology, and she switched her major to biology. She worked on cockroach muscles in a lab in college. She began graduate school in pharmacology at the University of Colorado. In Paul Hagerman’s class she discovered that DNA is flexible, an exciting and beautiful idea to her. Hagerman became her Ph.D. advisor; in his lab she studied the biophysical properties of branched DNA. During her years at Colorado she met and married her husband and had her first child as she was finishing her degree.
After travelling in Switzerland, Julia, her husband, and their first child went to Washington, D.C., where she accepted a postdoc at the National Institutes of Health. She worked on chromatin structure in Robert Simpson’s lab. She had a second child while in Washington, and then she accepted another postdoc in Thomas Cech’s lab at the University of Colorado at Boulder; there she worked on telomeres in fission yeast. After three years she wanted to work with Paul Nurse at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. She spent a year there and then accepted a position at the University of Colorado at Denver. From there she moved to the London Research Institute, where she continues her research on telomeres and genomic stability. Cooper also discusses balancing family life with her career, which includes the usual searching for funding; publishing; working toward tenure; variable administrative duties; and working in the lab.
|1989||University of Colorado, Health Sciences Center||PhD|
University of Colorado, Health Sciences Center
National Institutes of Health
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Imperial Cancer Research Fund
National Cancer Institute
European Molecular Biology Organization long-term fellowship
National Institutes of Health R01
Human Frontiers in Science Program Research Grant
|1999 to 2003||
Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences Award
Electred Chair of Gordon Research Conference on Chromosome Dynamics
Table of Contents
Family background. Early schooling in Trumbull, Connecticut. Parental expectations. School in Fairfax, Virginia. Impact of religion on Cooper.
Matriculates at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Becomes interested in biology. Her first laboratory experience in college. Summer jobs. Cooper’s impression of Atlanta, Georgia, and living in the South.
Begins graduate school in pharmacology at University of Colorado, Boulder. Inspiration from a course taught by Paul J. Hagerman. Her doctoral research in Hagerman’s laboratory studying the biophysical properties of branched DNA. Hagerman’s mentoring style. Journal articles in Hagerman’s lab.
Her postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Robert T. Simpson’s chromatin structure laboratory. Gender issues in science. Simpson’s mentoring style. Cooper’s postdoctoral fellowship with Thomas R. Cech at University of Colorado, Boulder. Attends a course on fission yeast at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Her research in the Cech laboratory on telomeres in fission yeast. Competition in science. Works in Paul Nurse’s laboratory studying Taz1 protein and telomeres in fission yeast.
Accepts a position at University of Colorado, Denver. Setting up and managing her lab. Funding. Prioritizing her research projects. Cooper's current research in molecular genetics studying telomeres. Teaching responsibilities.
Cooper’s move to the London Research Institute. More on Cooper’s current research on telomeres and genomic stability. Setting up her lab in London. Foreign students as science graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. More on gender issues in science. Balancing career and family. Patents. Writing journal articles. Administrative duties. Tenure process at the London Research Institute. Her professional and personal goals.
About the Interviewer
Karen A. Frenkel is a writer, documentary producer, and author specializing in science and technology and their impacts on society. She wrote Robots: Machines in Man’s Image (Harmony 1985) with Isaac Asimov. Her articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, CyberTimes, Business Week, Communications Magazine, Discover, Forbes, New Media, Personal Computing, Scientific American, Scientific American MIND, The Village Voice, and Technology Review. Ms. Frenkel’s award-winning documentary films, Net Learning and Minerva’s Machine: Women and Computing aired on Public Television. She has been an interviewer for Columbia University’s Oral History Research Center’s 9/11 Narrative and Memory project, The National Press Foundation’s Oral History of Women in Journalism, and the International Psychoanalytic Institute for Training and Research’s Oral History. Professional memberships include: The Authors Guild, National Association of Science Writers, Writer’s Guild of America East, and New York Women in Film and Television: Past Member of the Board and Director of Programming. Her website is www.Karenafrenkel.com.