Brian D. Dynlacht

Born: September 3, 1965 | Brooklyn, NY, US

Brian D. Dynlacht grew up in Coral Gables, Florida. He admired his father, a Holocaust survivor, and his mother, who raised her children while Dylnlacht's father traveled for work. An experience in an organic chemistry lab as a high schooler kindled his enthusiasm for science. Dynlacht attended Yale for undergrad and University of California, Berkeley for his PhD. He researched gene regulation and cell-growth regulatory networks in a postdoctoral position at Massachusetts General Hospital. He took a position at Harvard, but after several years realized that New York was a better fit and moved to the NYU Cancer Institute. While his benchwork has decreased, overseeing his laboratory, writing, reviewing, travelling, and teaching, have come to occupy a significant part of his time as a principal investigator. 

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0475
No. of pages: 76
Minutes: 520

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
19 and 20 August 2004
New York University New York, New York

Abstract of Interview

Brian D. Dynlacht spent much of his youth in Coral Gables, Florida, one of three children. From his youth Dynlacht was impressed by his father, a man who suffered through the Holocaust as a child and survived through the kindness of Polish woman who hid Dynlacht's father from the Gestapo, and by his mother who raised her children while Dylnlacht's father traveled for work. He was fortunate to have several encouraging high school teachers who allowed him to broaden his intellectual interests; an experience in an organic chemistry lab as a high school senior kindled his enthusiasm for science. Dynlacht chose to attend Yale University for his undergraduate studies; the academic environment at Yale as well as his work in Paul Howard-Flanders's laboratory, further reinforced that he had a real passion for scientific research—specifically molecular biophysics and biochemistry. After completing his undergraduate degree, he moved on to the University of California, Berkeley for his PhD; in Robert Tjian's laboratory, Dynlacht researched transcription factors. After his graduate career, he decided to pursue research on gene regulation and cell-growth regulatory networks in a postdoctoral position at Massachusetts General Hospital with Edward Harlow. While he hoped to return to Berkeley as a professor, he ultimately accepted a faculty position at Harvard University, where his research continued on gene regulation and cell-growth regulatory networks. After several years, Dynlacht, realizing that New York was a better fit in terms of location, took a faculty position at New York University, specifically at the NYU Cancer Institute. In addition to heading his own lab, he became responsible for overseeing NYU's genomics facility in the Rusk Institute. While his benchwork time has decreased, other tasks, including overseeing his laboratory, writing grants, writing journal articles, reviewing papers, travelling, and, to a lesser degree, teaching, have come to occupy a significant part of his time as a principal investigator. The interview concludes with Dynlacht's reflections on how his laboratory and research have evolved in the past few years, and how these things might—and should—change in the next five to ten years. Additionally, he talks about broader scientific issues, including the complicated relationship between academic and industrial science, as well as the pros and cons of advanced technology in scientific research. He also expresses his opinions about national scientific policy and how scientists should be—but have not been—included in the discussion of public policy questions. The interview ends with a discussion of how women and ethnic minorities are represented in science, both broadly and at his own institution, as well as the impact that the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences has had on his work. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1987 Yale University BS Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
1992 University of California, Berkeley PhD

Professional Experience

University of California, Berkeley

1992 to 1993
Postdoctorate

Massachusetts General Hospital

1993 to 1995
Postdoctorate

Harvard University

1995 to 1999
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
1999 to 2002
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology

New York University School of Medicine

2002 to 2005
Associate Professor, Department of Pathology
2002 to 2005
Director of the NYU School of Medicine Genomics Program

Honors

Year(s) Award
1987

Summa cum laude and Distinction in the Major of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University

2017

Oncogene Science Award for Outstanding Research in Gene Transcription

2017

PhD thesis selected to represent the University of California,Berkeley in the University Microfilms International Distinguished Dissertation Award Competition

1993 to 1995

Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund Fellow

1994 to 2005

Reviewer for the journals Cell, Molecular Cell, Cancer Cell, EMBO Journal, Genes and Development, Genomics, Journal of Cell Biology, J. Cell Sci., Mol. Cell. Biol., Mol. Biol. Cell, Nature, Nature Genetics, Nature Medicine, Nature Methods,Nature Reviews Cancer, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, Oncogene, Proceedings of the Natl. Acad. Sci., and Science

1996

Ad hoc reviewer: Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Award study section

1996 to 1997

Damon Runyon Scholar Award

1998 to 1999

Reviewer for the Israel Science Foundation; Textbook reviewer for Harcourt/Academic Press.

1998 to 2000

Chairman, Graduate Admissions Committee for Dept. of MCB, Harvard

1998 to 2002

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1999

Junior Faculty Search Committee, Dept. of MCB.

1999

Scientific Program reviewer, Wellcome/CRC Institute, University of Cambridge, England and for the Association for International Cancer Research (United Kingdom).

1999

Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)

2000 to 2002

Instructor, Gene Expression course, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

2000 to 2004

Ad hoc reviewer: NIH CDF-1 (formerly Mol. Biol.) and NHLBI study sections

2003

Ad hoc reviewer, NIH, Special Emphasis panel (ZRG1)

2003

Chair, Bioinformatics and Genomics Search Committee

2004 to 2005

Member, NIH CDF-1 (currently MGB) study section

2004 to 2005

Editorial Board, Cell Death and Differentiation

2005

Irma T. Hirschl Career Scientist Award

Table of Contents

Early Years and Starting College
1

Family background. Father and mother. Older brother. Childhood interests and experiences. Public perceptions about science. Junior high and high school experiences in Coral Gables, Florida. Decision to pursue science as a career. Younger brother. Influential teachers. First laboratory experience at the University of Miami during high school. Qualities of a good teacher. Hobby. Religion. Yale University. College experiences.

College Research, Graduate School, Postdoctoral Work, and Harvard University
18

Research in Paul Howard-Flanders's laboratory during senior year in college. Attends graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. Works for Robert Tjian. Typical day in graduate school. Meets future wife. Research in on transcription factors. Most difficult aspect of being a principal investigator. Postdoctoral fellowship in Edward Harlow's laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital. Postdoctoral research on cell-cycle regulation. Harlow's laboratory management style. Accepts a position at Harvard University. Reasons for leaving Harvard. Current research on gene regulation and cell-growth regulatory networks. Accepts a position at New York University Cancer Institute.

New York University Cancer Institute
36

Setting up laboratory at New York University Cancer Institute. Broader applications of research. Role in the lab. Teaching responsibilities. Travel commitments. Administrative duties. Funding history. Grant-writing process. Writing journal articles. Laboratory management style. Duties to professional community. Balancing family and career. Leisure activities. New York City. Future research on regulation of cell growth and differentiation. Patents. Industry.

Life and Practice as a Scientist
55

Importance of being familiar with the history of a particular field of research. Conducting scientific research. Competition and collaboration in science. Tenure at New York University Cancer Institute. Criteria in prioritizing research projects. Role of the scientist in educating the public about science. Gender. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.

Index
73

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten