Robert C. De Lisle

Born: August 5, 1957 | Buffalo, NY, US

Robert C. De Lisle was born in Buffalo, New York. He credits his father (an electrical engineer and inventor) with influencing Robert's interest in science. Having won a National Merit Scholarship, he entered University of Massachusetts, Boston, where he discovered a love of lab work, then went onto Case Western University, where he worked in the Ulrich Hopfer laboratory, researching the pancreas. Next, he accepted a postdoc at the University of California, San Francisco, working with John Williams, whom he followed to the University of Michigan. Eventually De Lisle accepted a position at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He is currently working on two broad projects: what muclin protein does in the exocrine pancreas, and applications to cystic fibrosis. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0440
No. of pages: 100
Minutes: 450

Interview Sessions

Helene L. Cohen
10-12 April 2000
University of Kansas Medical Center Kansas City, Kansas

Abstract of Interview

Robert C. De Lisle was born in Buffalo, New York, the fourth of seven children. His father was an electrical engineer who holds patents on several of his inventions and who, now that he is retired, is studying cosmology for fun. De Lisle credits his father with influencing him (Robert) to think, as well as to do whatever he (Robert) was interested in. A home filled with growing children becomes crowded, and Buffalo weather is not conducive to outdoor fun, so De Lisle's father built each child a small room in the basement. There Robert built models. When Heathkits became available, De Lisle's father built a color television set and a stereo. Watching and talking with his father aroused and reinforced Robert's interest in science, in how things are put together and how they work. Robert was always interested in and did well in science and math. He considers high school mostly a waste of time, but he had an inspiring math teacher (Nello Allegrezzo) and two good biology classes that cemented his desire to be a biologist. Having won a National Merit Scholarship that paid his whole tuition to any state school, De Lisle entered the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts. He lived at home, commuting daily. There he was able to indulge his love of learning, taking classes of all kinds, and, since his science classes were all lab classes, to learn that he loved working at the bench. He decided that a biology major required further education, so he applied to graduate school, entering Case Western Reserve. There he worked in the Ulrich Hopfer laboratory, doing research on the pancreas. He visited the Max-Planck Institut also. After finishing his PhD, he accepted a postdoc at the University of California at San Francisco, working with John Williams. When Williams went to the University of Michigan, De Lisle followed. At Michigan De Lisle collaborated with Motoji Kitagawa, who was studying the molecular mechanisms in exocytosis. Eventually De Lisle accepted a position at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He set up his laboratory and married Eileen Roach, who had been a technician in Williams' lab. He continues his interest in and work on the pancreas and gastrointestinal system. He is currently working on two broad projects: what muclin protein does in the exocrine pancreas; and applications to cystic fibrosis, which he points out was originally called cystic fibrosis of the pancreas. In his occasional spare time he loves to build furniture. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1979 University of Massachusetts BA
1984 Case Western Reserve University PhD

Professional Experience

University of California, San Francisco

1984 to 1987
Postdoctoral Fellow

University of Michigan

1984 to 1987
Assistant Research Scientists

University of Kansas Medical Center

1990 to 1996
Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
1996 to 2001
Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1984

1984 Steuer Award, Department of Developmental Genetics and Anatomy, Case Western Reserve University

1985 to 1987

Postdoctoral Fellow, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

1993 to 1997

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. De Lisle's siblings. Early school memories. His interest in math and science. The general quality of his elementary school education. Childhood hobbies and activities. His family's move to Massachusetts. De Lisle's secondary education. Resolves to become biologist.

Undergraduate Years
19

Enters University of Massachusetts, Boston Campus, to which he commutes from home. Spends four years studying. Majors in biology. With guidance from Herbert Lipke, decides to go to graduate school.

Graduate Years
24

Begins graduate work at Case Western Reserve University. Works in the Ulrich Hopfer laboratory. Visits the Max-Planck-Institut für Biophysic to work on zymogen granules of the pancreas. Receives the Steuer award at Case Western. Works on electrolyte transport in secretory granules of the pancreas.

Postgraduate Years
33

Conducting postdoctoral research in the John A. Williams laboratory at University of California, San Francisco. Follows Williams to University of Michigan. Collaborates with Motoji Kitagawa in studying the molecular mechanisms involved in exocytosis. De Lisle's postdoctoral career. Delay in seeking a principal investigator (PI) position.

Later Years
42

Accepts a PI position at University of Kansas Medical Center. Setting up his laboratory. His wife, Eileen A. Roach. Funding. Writing journal articles. Teaching responsibilities. Administrative and professional duties. A typical workday. Collaborations with other scientists. Ethical issues in biomedical research. Tenure. De Lisle's current research on muclin protein. Applications of De Lisle's research to cystic fibrosis. His interest in the pancreas and thegastrointestinal system. His serendipitous discovery of an antibody to the pancreatic duct cell. His love of woodworking.

Index
98

About the Interviewer

Helene L. Cohen