Jason G. Cyster

Born: May 14, 1967 | Narrogin, AU

Jason G. Cyster was born in Western Australia. In high school, he obtained the highest aggregate score on Australia's Tertiary exams in his state, receiving the Beazley Award. He decided to study biology based upon his childhood interests in animals and the caliber of lecturers at Western Australia University. By his third year, he became interested in immunology and began working with Wayne R. Thomas. After receiving a Commonwealth Overseas Studentship, Cyster attended Oxford University, where he worked with Alan F. Williams characterizing the CD43 molecule and collaborated with Paul C. Driscoll and Ian Campbell on a structural analysis of the T lymphocyte CD2 antigen. After a postdoc at Stanford, he accepted a position at the University of California, San Francisco, where he is today. 

Access This Interview

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0461
No. of pages: 90
Minutes: 350

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
24-26 September 2002
University of California San Francisco, California

Abstract of Interview

Jason G. Cyster was born and raised in Western Australia, the younger of two brothers. Cyster lived and worked on a farm for much of his early life. His father worked as a hired laborer on others' farms before buying his own (for a time later in life he made a brief foray into software engineering—due, in part, to his elder son's interests—developing software for farmers, before returning to farm life); Cyster's mother, once the children were in school, worked first as a secretary and then as a real-estate agent. Cyster's school was a seventy-five minute bus ride from his home, so commuting to and from school, school, and work on the farm did not leave much time for activities not related to academics or farm life. He did well in his local school throughout most of his childhood; both he and his older brother went to a boarding school in nearby Perth to finish the last two years of school, principally because the local public high school was close to fifty miles away. While completing high school, Cyster obtained the highest aggregate score on Australia's Tertiary exams in his state, receiving the Beazley Award. He matriculated at the University of Western Australia to pursue science rather than veterinary medicine (his older brother was there as well, though focusing on computer science). In part, his decision to study biology was based upon his own childhood inclinations and interests (he and his mother started a piggery, and he occasionally dissected a pig), and in part on the caliber of lecturers at the university. By his third year, he developed an interest in immunology and began working in the lab of, and being mentored by, Wayne R. Thomas with whom Cyster conducted his honors thesis. After receiving a Commonwealth Overseas Studentship, Cyster decided to undertake his graduate studies at Oxford University instead of remaining in Australia. At Oxford he worked with Alan F. Williams characterizing the CD43 molecule; he also collaborated with Paul C. Driscoll and Ian Campbell on a structural analysis of the T lymphocyte CD2 antigen. Early on in his graduate study Cyster began thinking of where to do his postdoctoral work, and though Australia was certainly a consideration, Cyster also entertained the notion of going to the United States. He decided to work with Christopher C. Goodnow at Stanford University studying immunological tolerance and the follicular exclusion process. From there, he accepted a position at the University of California, San Francisco. Near the end of the interview, Cyster comments on the tenure system in the United States and in Europe; his mentoring style; the Tetrad and Biomedical Science programs at University of California, San Francisco; and the broader applications of his work. He concludes the interview with thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of competition in science; the peer review system; the role of industry in research; and the impact that the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences had, and has, on his work. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1988 University of Western Australia BSc Biochemistry and Microbiology
1992 University of Oxford PhD Immunology

Professional Experience

Stanford University Medical Center

1992 to 1995
Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory of Dr. Goodnow

University of California, San Francisco

1995 to 2000
Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
2000 to 2003
Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

2000 to 2003
Assistant Investigator

Honors

Year(s) Award
1984

The Beazley Award for secondary education in Western Australia

1988

J. A. Wood Memorial prize from the University of Western Australia

1989 to 1992

Commonwealth Overseas Studentship

1992 to 1995

Cancer Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship

1996 to 2000

Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences Award

1997

Cheryl Whitlock Memorial Prize for Postdoctoral Studies

1998 to 2003

David and Lucille Packard Fellowship

Table of Contents

Childhood
1

Family background. Cyster's childhood experiences growing up on a farm in Denmark, Australia. His early schooling. Parental expectations. His brother. Attends Guilford Grammar School during his last two years of high school. His brother's influence. Influential teachers. The Beazley award for secondary education excellence. Attends the University of Western Australia to pursuescience rather than veterinary medicine. His childhood interest in biology.

Undergraduate and Graduate Years
17

Factors affecting Cyster's decision to study biology at the University of Western Australia. Decides to specialize in immunology. Mentored by Wayne Thomas. Does his honors thesis research in Thomas's laboratory. Receives a Commonwealth Overseas Studentship. Decides to attend Oxford University inEngland for his PhD instead of continuing in Australia. Works in Alan F. Williams's laboratory. The values of applied and basic research. The wider context of basic research. Project characterizing the CD43 molecule in Alan F. Williams's lab at Oxford University. Collaboration with Paul C. Driscoll andIan Campbell in a structural analysis of the T lymphocyte CD2 antigen. Cyster's adaptation to life in England. Enjoyment of reading.

Postdoctoral and Faculty Years
37

His postdoctoral work in Christopher C. Goodnow's laboratory at Stanford University. Goodnow's mentoring style. Cyster's research on immunological tolerance and the follicular exclusion process. The process of writing grants. Accepts a position at University of California, San Francisco. Setting up his laboratory. Balancing personal and career goals.

Final Thoughts
55

Cyster's lab management style. His role in the lab and administrative duties. Teaching responsibilities. Views on the advantages and disadvantages of academic responsibilities along with research responsibilities. The tenure system in the United States and in Europe. Mentoring style. The Tetrad and BiomedicalScience programs at University of California, San Francisco. Competition in his Field. Broader applications of his work. Competition in science. Patents for research findings. The role of grants in directing research ideas. The process ofconducting scientific research. The gender makeup of his lab. Impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award on his work.

Index
86

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan