Sandra J. F. Degen

Born: January 15, 1955 | Glendale, CA, US

Sandra J. F. Degen grew up in the San Fernando Valley, outside of Los Angeles, California, one of four children. Her father was a scientist and her mother a seamstress and homemaker. It was expected that the children would go to college, and Sandra chose the University of California, San Diego, where she majored inchemistry. She worked on fibrinogen in Russell Doolittle's lab. Sandra undertook graduate work in Earl Davie's lab at the University of Washington, completing her PhD thesis on human prothrombin. Edward Reich, who had just left Rockefeller University for Meischer Institut in Basel, Switzerland, recruited Sandra and her husband. After two years there, they returned to the states and both accepted assistant professorships in the pediatrics department at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0634
No. of pages: 45
Minutes: 175

Interview Sessions

Susan M. Lindee and Sarah Goldfine
3 March 1991
Coronado, California

Abstract of Interview

Sandra J.F. Degen grew up in the San Fernando Valley, outside of Los Angeles, California, one of four children. Her father was a scientist and her mother a seamstress and homemaker. She says her childhood was an ordinary happy one. She did well in school but did not decide on science as a career until college. There was no religion in the family.

It was expected that the children would go to college, and Sandra chose the University of California, San Diego. Originally she had thought to major in mathematics, but in her second year she decided to switch to chemistry. Sandra entered Russell Doolittle’s lab, where she worked on fibrinogen. She found Doolittle to be very helpful and supportive. She met Jay Degen, who was also a chemistry student, and they married right after college.

On Doolittle’s advice the Degens both entered graduate school at the University of Washington, Sandra in Earl Davie’s lab. Sandra worked under Kazuo Fujikawa for three unsuccessful years before changing projects and completing her PhD thesis on human prothrombin. She compares her confident attitude with her husband’s and points out that both have succeeded.

Edward Reich, who had just left Rockefeller University for Meischer Institut in Basel, Switzerland, recruited both Degens for his lab. They spent two years there, working, writing some papers, and doing some travelling. At that point they were ready to return to the United States and to find jobs, always more complicated with both spouses being scientists.

They were pursued by three institutions, most aggressively by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where both ultimately accepted assistant professorships in the pediatrics department and where both have progressed through tenure reviews to professorships. Sandra has good funding; her lab is small but growing; her work is going well. She talks about her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and how difficult it is to find as much time as she would like to spend playing with her. She discusses her lab management philosophy. She explains that she loves her science but that she also enjoys the administrative duties involved and says that in ten years she may want to be doing more of the administration or perhaps something altogether different.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1976 University of California, San Diego BA with honors Chemistry
1982 University of Washington PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

University of Washington

1983
Senior Fellow

Friedrich Meister-Institut

1983 to 1985
Senior Fellow

University of Cincinnati Medical Center

1985 to 1992
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Honors

Year(s) Award
1977 to 1978

NIH Predoctoral Fellowship

1978

Elected membership in the American Chemical Society

1987 to 1991

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1989

Elected membership in the American Society of Hematology

1989

Elected membership in the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

1990

Special Reviewer for NIH Hematology I Study Section

1990 to 1992

Established Investigator of the American Heart Association

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Religious influence. Likes mathematics. High schoolchemistry class. Parental expectations.

College Years
4

Matriculates into University of California, San Diego. Considers math major,switches to chemistry after challenging class. Meets future husband. EntersRussell Doolittle's laboratory to work on fibrinogen, while fiancé, Jay Degen,enters Jack Kyte's lab.

Graduate School Years
6

Mentored by Doolittle, she and husband go to University of Washington forgraduate school. Her confident attitude. Works on human prothrombin in EarlDavie's lab. Three years with no progress, but then PhD three years later. Cross-species hybridization. Independent attitude.

Postgraduate Years
22

Both Degens hired by Edward Reich at Friedrich Miescher Institut in Basel,Switzerland. Work and travel for two years. Looking for jobs.

Faculty Years
29

Considers University of Vermont. Both accept assistant professor positions atCincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Funding. Lab size, management,and growth. Writing grants. Two-year-old daughter. Professional goalsand aspirations

Index
44

Considers University of Vermont. Both accept assistant professor positions atCincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Funding. Lab size, management,and growth. Writing grants. Two-year-old daughter. Professional goalsand aspirations

About the Interviewer

Susan M. Lindee
Sarah Goldfine