Richard I. Dorsky

Born: January 15, 1969 | Pompton Lakes, NJ, US

Richard I. Dorsky grew up in Palo Alto, California. His father was a chemist who nurtured Dorsky's early interest in science with simple experiments at home and trips to the chemistry lab. An outstanding biology teacher in high school turned Dorsky's interest in chemistry to a love of biology. Dorsky majored in molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He worked in Mark Davis's lab at Stanford University, then entered Corey Goodman's lab, where he wrote his honors thesis with Alex Kolodkin. At University of California, San Diego, for his PhD work, Dorsky began working on notch function gene in the retina. He became interested Wnt signaling and zebrafish. At the University of Washington for his postdoc, he worked in two labs: David Raible's and Randall Moon's. He left Washington for an assistant professorship at the University of Utah. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0658
No. of pages: 96
Minutes: 251

Interview Sessions

Hilary Domush
15 and 16 July 2009
University of Utah Salt Lake City, Utah

Abstract of Interview

Richard I. Dorsky grew up in Palo Alto, California. His father was a chemist; his mother was a computer programmer. Dorsky always liked to understand how things worked, and his father promoted Dorsky's early interest in science with simple experiments at home and trips to the chemistry lab. Strong associations with Stanford University faculty and their children further encouraged a strong academic leaning. An outstanding biology teacher in high school turned Dorsky's interest in chemistry to a love of biology. Dorsky entered the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in molecular biology; he worked in Mark Davis's lab at Stanford University and did summer lab work with Peter Schultz. During his junior year Dorsky injured his knee while skiing for the ski team; after surgery on his knee, he spent some of his recovery time travelling in Europe. He loved Corey Goodman's developmental neurobiology class and entered Goodman's lab, where he wrote his honors thesis with Alex Kolodkin; after his graduation he spent a further year as a technician in Goodman's lab while he considered graduate schools. For his PhD, Dorsky entered William Harris's lab at University of California, San Diego, where he immediately won a National Science Foundation grant and began working on notch function gene in the retina. He met his future wife and followed her to Sydney, Australia, where he spent six months in David Rapaport's lab. While deciding on a postdoc Dorsky became interested Wnt signaling and zebrafish. He accepted a position at the University of Washington, where he worked in two labs, David Raible's and Randall Moon's. There he researched Wnt signaling and continued writing and publishing papers. He left Washington for an assistant professorship at the University of Utah. At the end of the interview he talks about the community of zebrafish scholars, its friendliness and willingness to share; its rapid growth; and its usefulness as a proxy for understanding human brains. He takes the interviewer on a tour of his facility (6,000 tanks shared by eighteen labs) and describes how the University controls access and training. Dorsky talks about the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant and the annual meetings. He discusses recruiting students and postdocs; his lab management style; his own bench work; his teaching duties; his administrative commitments; collaborations; and more about publishing and journal hierarchy. Dorsky explains how understanding the zebrafish's brain will lead to understanding human neurogenesis. He concludes his interview by describing how he attempts to balance his family life with life in the lab. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1990 University of California, Berkeley BA Molecular Biology
1996 University of California, San Diego PhD Biology

Professional Experience

University of Washington

1996 to 2001
Postdoctorate, Developmental Biology

University of Utah

2001 to 2008
Assistant Professor, Neurobiology and Anatomy
2008 to 2010
Associate Professor, Neurobiology and Anatomy

Honors

Year(s) Award
1985 to 1990

National Merit Scholarship

1986 to 1990

University of California, Berkeley, Chancellor's Scholarship

1992 to 1995

National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship

1998

National Research Service Award, National Institutes of Health

1998 to 2001

Howard Hughes Postdoctoral Fellowship

2003 to 2007

Pew Scholar Award in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Growing up in Palo Alto, California. Parents' professions. Early interest inscience augmented by visits to father's chemistry lab. Liked to figure out howthings work. Outstanding biology teacher in high school.

College Years
3

Reasons for choosing University of California, Berkeley. Majoring in molecularbiology. Ski team. Surgery on knee during junior year. Mark Davis's lab atStanford University. Summer lab work with Peter Schultz. Travelling in Europeafter knee surgery. Corey Goodman's developmental neurobiology class. Entering Goodman's lab. Honors thesis with Alex Kolodkin

Graduate School Years
15

Enters William Harris's lab at University of California, San Diego. ComparesGoodman's mentoring with Harris's. National Science Foundation grant. Working on notch function gene in the retina. Meets future wife. Spends timein David Rapaport's lab in Sydney, Australia. Defending his dissertation. Looks for postdocs.

Postgraduate Years
32

Becomes interested in Wnt signaling. Discovers zebrafish. Beginsat University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Works on neural crest inDavid Raible's and Randall Moon's labs. Electroproration. Moving to Wntsignaling. Compares his lab experiences. Paper-writing. Publishing and journalsin general.

Faculty Years
45

Accepts assistant professorship at University of Utah. Setting up his own lab. Description of zebrafish lab. Community of zebrafish scholars. Pew ScholarsProgram in the Biomedical Sciences award. Lab management. Benchwork. Teaching. Administrative duties. Students and postdocs. Collaborations. More about journals and publishing. Reviewing for National Institutes of Healthgrants. Educating the public about science and its importance. Balancing familylife with life at the lab. Main goals of research.

Index
94

Accepts assistant professorship at University of Utah. Setting up his own lab. Description of zebrafish lab. Community of zebrafish scholars. Pew ScholarsProgram in the Biomedical Sciences award. Lab management. Benchwork. Teaching. Administrative duties. Students and postdocs. Collaborations. More about journals and publishing. Reviewing for National Institutes of Healthgrants. Educating the public about science and its importance. Balancing familylife with life at the lab. Main goals of research.

About the Interviewer

Hilary Domush

Hilary Domush was a Program Associate in the Center for Oral History at CHF from 2007–2015. Previously, she earned a BS in chemistry from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 2003.  She then completed an MS in chemistry and an MA in history of science both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her graduate work in the history of science focused on early nineteenth-century chemistry in the city of Edinburgh, while her work in the chemistry was in a total synthesis laboratory.  At CHF, she worked on projects such as the Pew Biomedical Scholars, Women in Chemistry, Atmospheric Science, and Catalysis.