Manfred Frasch

Born: March 15, 1954 | Holzgerlingen, DE

Manfred Frasch was born in Holzgerlingen, Germany. He had an early curiosity about how things work, leading him to chemistry and biology. He entered the University of Tübingen, where he studied biochemistry. His diploma thesis concerned gene regulation in Drosophila, which he continued to study through his career. Liking the projects and atmosphere of Tübingen, Frasch stayed for his PhD. He learned cloning techniques and decided to pursue genetic approaches. Wanting to see more of the world, he took a postdoc in Michael Levine's lab at Columbia University, working on the even-skipped gene. After a fellowship at the Max Planck Institute, he accepted a position at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, where he established his lab and is now a tenured professor.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0442
No. of pages: 89
Minutes: 400

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
17-19 December 1998
Mount Sinai School of Medicine New York City, New York

Abstract of Interview

Manfred Frasch was born in Holzgerlingen, Germany, in Swabia. His father was what we would call a contractor, building mostly wooden roofs. This business was begun by Frasch's grandfather, and the Frasch family has lived in that area for many generations. Manfred lived on a farm, where his mother did the farming. His father's workshop was also on the farm. He was brought up in the Lutheran faith. He had an early curiosity about how things work, leading him to chemistry and biology. After finishing gymnasium, Frasch completed his compulsory military service. He entered the University of Tübingen, where he majored in biochemistry. He also studied molecular biology at the University of Munich, with which Tübingen had an exchange program. His diploma thesis concerned gene regulation in Drosophila; he found Drosophila so fascinating that he has remained in that field. Liking the projects, the atmosphere, and the independence of Tübingen, Frasch decided to stay there for his PhD , using biochemical rather than genetic techniques in his research into Drosophila. He eventually learned cloning techniques and decided to pursue genetic approaches rather than biochemical. He worked in Friedrich Bonhoeffer's lab, where he had a great deal of independence. Wanting to see more of the world and wanting to expand his scientific horizons, he applied for postdocs in the United States. He accepted a position in Michael Levine's lab at Columbia University, working on the even-skipped gene. He had always intended to return to Germany, and he accepted a position as a research fellow in Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard's lab in the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, where his focus was on mesoderm development. There, work on S59 led to the characterization of tinman and bagpipe. Frasch was not sanguine about his career prospects during his last year at the University of Tübingen, so he decided to return to the States, and accepted a position in the Brookdale Center for Molecular Biology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. There he established his own lab, where he hopes to find clinical relevance for his mesoderm and heart development research. He began as an associate professor in the Brookdale but is now a tenured associate professor. He is married to Hanh Thi Nguyen, who is also a scientist.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1981 University of Tübingen Diploma Biochemistry
1985 University of Tübingen PhD

Professional Experience

Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

1981 to 1986
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Physical Biology
1988 to 1991
Research Fellow, Department of Genetics

Columbia University

1986 to 1988
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biology

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

1991 to 1995
Brookdale Center for Molecular Biology, Assistant Professor
1996
Brookdale Center for Molecular Biology, Associate Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1986 to 1988

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Fellowship

1989 to 1991

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Research Award

1993 to 1997

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Childhood in Holzgerlingen, Germany. Family background. Parents'expectations. Frasch's early education. Interest in chemistry and biology. Religious upbringing in the Lutheran church. His military service in the German army.

Undergraduate Years
23

Decision to study biochemistry at the University of Tübingen. Studies molecular biology at the University of Munich. Frasch conducts research on gene regulation in Drosophila for his diploma thesis. His decision to pursue a PhD degree. Reasons for remaining at University of Tübingen.

Graduate Years
34

Frasch's first publication. Transition from undergraduate to graduate student. Learns cloning techniques. Decision to pursue genetic rather than biochemical approaches--Decision to remain in the Friedrich Bonhoeffer lab. Frasch's independence in the Bonhoeffer lab.

Postgraduate Years in the United States
42

Decides to seek a postdoc in the US. Enters the Michael Levine lab at Columbia University. His research on the even-skipped gene. Frasch's publications in the Levine lab.

Return to Germany
50

Accepts position as a research fellow in the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard lab. Discovery of S59 His focus on mesoderm development. Work on S59 leads to the characterization of tinman and bagpipe. Frasch's career prospects during his last year at the University of Tübingen.

Return to United States
58

Problems with the German scientific system and funding. Accepts a position at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Establishes own lab in the US. Future research plans. Collaboration with fellow scientists. Clinical relevance of Frasch's mesoderm and heart development research. Differencesbetween US and German scientific institutions. Frasch's wife, Hanh Thi Nguyen. Status of women and minorities in science.

Index
88

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan