Glen A. Evans

Born: November 14, 1952 | San Diego, CA, US
Died: Monday, September 6, 2010 | Rancho Santa Fe, CA, US

Glen A. Evans grew up in San Diego, California, the oldest of three children. He first decided on a science career when he was in high school, and during the summer before he matriculated at UCSD he worked in Renato Dulbecco’s lab. He graduated in just three years, with a major in biology, enough credits for another major in chemistry, and with two published papers. Evans entered the Medical Scientist Training Program offered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), choosing UCSD, where he continued work he had begun as an undergraduate in Michael G. Rosenfeld’s lab on activation of hormone genes in the pituitary gland. Evans’ first job was in Philip Leder’s lab at the NIH’s Public Health Service, funded by the U.S. Navy. Finding the lab too large, Evans moved to Jonathan Seidman’s lab to work on histocompatibility antigens. When Leder and Seidman left NIH for Harvard University, taking most of the lab with them, Evans decided to finish his third year and then move to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Though he has to fund his own work at the Salk he finds it intellectually free, smaller, and more efficient. His lab is mostly involved with the Human Genome Project. To finish the interview Evans discusses his documentation, a typical day at work, his rolling contract, and his ideal lab environment.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0723
No. of pages: 39
Minutes: 139

Interview Sessions

Arnold Thackray
20 November 1989
Salk Institute for Biological Studies San Diego, California

Abstract of Interview

Glen A. Evans grew up in San Diego, California, the oldest of three children. His father was an illustrator and later an engineer working on airplanes, his mother a housewife. Both were of Welsh descent. All three of their children obtained degrees from University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and live in the area.

Evans first decided on a science career when he was in high school. An arrangement with UCSD allowed him to take courses at the University even while in high school, and during the summer before he matriculated at UCSD he worked in Renato Dulbecco’s lab. As a result he was able to graduate in just three years, with a major in biology and  enough credits for another major in chemistry, and with two published papers. Medical school beckoned, as did research, so Evans decided to combine the two in the Medical Scientist Training Program offered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), choosing UCSD. There he was able to continue in Michael G. Rosenfeld’s lab, where he had worked as an undergraduate on activation of hormone genes in the pituitary gland. He finished his MD and his PhD degrees together in just six years, with an internship at Stanford University and a thesis on the regulation of prolactin by TRF.

Evans’ first job was in Philip Leder’s lab at the NIH’s Public Health Service, funded by the U.S. Navy. Finding the lab too large, Evans moved to Jonathan Seidman’s lab to work on histocompatibility antigens. When Leder and Seidman left NIH for Harvard University, taking most of the lab with them, Evans decided to finish his third year and then move to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Though he has to fund his own work at the Salk he finds it intellectually free, smaller, and more efficient. He has little difficulty getting grants, except for expensive equipment, like a confocal microscope, so he attempts to share whenever possible. He keeps his lab small, preferring graduate students to postdocs, as he finds them are more curious, willing to stay longer, easier to teach, and willing to experiment. These days Evans is not working at the bench, as his lab is mostly involved with the Human Genome Project, and his time is better spent in administration, but he hopes to get back soon. Evans’ wife has degrees in both mathematics and music and is now a professional musician. The couple has two children, with another on the way. Evans’ interests include skiing; playing piano, organ, and synthesizer; and building furniture. To finish the interview Evans discusses his documentation, a typical day at work, his rolling contract, and his ideal lab environment.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1973 University of California, San Diego BA Biology
1979 University of California, San Diego MD
1979 University of California, San Diego PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

Stanford University Medical Center

1979 to 1980
Intern in Internal Medicine

National Institutes of Health

1980 to 1983
Research Associate

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

1983 to 1990
Assistant Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1973

BA in Biology with Highest Honors

1974 to 1979

University of California Regents Scholarship, UCSD School of Medicine

1974

California State Graduate Fellowship

1975

California Foundation for Biochemical Research Fellowship

1975 to 1979

NIH Pre-doctoral Trainee, NIGMS

1976

Mead Johnson Excellence of Research Award

1976

Roche Laboratories Award in Neurosciences

1977

American Cancer Society Award

1985 to 1989

Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences Award

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Born in San Diego, California. Family background. Two siblings. Parents' education and employment. Religion. Developing interest in science in high school. Program for high school students at University of California, San Diego. Worked at Salk Institute for Biological Studies during summer before college.

College Years
5

University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Interested in molecular biology. Majored in biology; had enough credits for major in chemistry; was graduated in three years. Renato Dulbecco's lab; then in biochemistry lab. Two papers as undergraduate. Arthur Robinson's influence and teaching.

Medical and Graduate School Years
8

Deciding between medical school and PhD. Wanted medical perspective for research. Influence of Philip Leder. Medical Scientist Training Program from National Institutes of Health (NIH). Choosing UCSD. Michael Rosenfeld's lab. Activation of hormone genes in pituitary gland. Finished thesis and clinical rotations at same time. Thesis on regulation of prolactin by TRF. Internship in internal medicine at Stanford University. Confirmed decision to do research.

First Job
14

Accepted job at NIH's Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, working in Philip Leder's lab. Antibody diversity problems had too many people so went to Jonathan Seidman's lab to work on histocompatibility antigens. Small lab now outdated; science big and equipment driven, but large labs unwieldy for funding. Leder and Seidman went to Harvard; Evans finished third year at NIH, working in lab of about four. Less exciting.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies
21

Assistant professorship. Family nearby. Salk much smaller, more efficient, intellectually free. Funding required. Structure of Salk. Works with Ursula Bellugi on William syndrome, Terrence Sejnowski on cogitational neurobiology. Agreement with Seidman about taking project with him. More about funding: grants from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, W. M. Keck Foundation; Pew Charitable Trusts. Expensiveness of equipment. Department of Energy grant for Human Genome Project (HGP); on advisory committees for HGP. Politics and potential benefits of HGP. Competition vs. collaboration. Lab composition and size. Likes graduate students for curiosity and willingness and freedom to experiment; likes to teach. Using other group's confocal microscope. Other groups also working on HGP.

More Thoughts
30

Wife's background, her degrees in math and music. Wife is professional musician; sings, teaches; directs two groups she founded. Two children, third on way. Evans loves to ski; also plays piano, organ, synthesizer. Manual labor; built furniture. Typical day at work. HGP keeps him out of lab, but he wants to get back. Discusses documentation; using other job offers as pressure; three-year rolling contract. Ideal workplace would be intellectually focused but still growing, e. g. Santa Fe Institute or universities in Boston, Massachusetts, area.

Index
38

About the Interviewer

Arnold Thackray

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received MA and PhD degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.