Peter G. Gillespie

Born: May 6, 1958 | Seattle, WA, US

Peter G. Gillespie was born in Seattle, Washington, where his love of outdoors and some important high school influences pushed him towards science. Gillespie received his BA in chemistry from Reed College where, during his fellowship studying photoreceptors at the Neurological Science Institute, he became interested in neuroscience. He worked for two years as a lab technician, then entered the University of Washington for his PhD. Gillespie accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of California, San Francisco in James Hudspeth's lab only to move with Hudspeth to University of Texas Southwest. Having held positions at Johns Hopkins University and the Oregon Health and Science University, Gillespie now conducts research at the Vollum Institute, where he studies auditory hair cell signal transduction.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0451
No. of pages: 109
Minutes: 450

Interview Sessions

Helene L. Cohen
1-3 August 2001
Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon

Abstract of Interview

Peter G. Gillespie was born in Seattle, Washington in 1958; the elder of two brothers. Both Gillespie's mother, who came from Idaho, and his father, who came from Washington, attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where they were mathematics majors. His father worked for several computer companies during the early days of the industry. Gillespie was an avid reader of books throughout his youth; he also became very involved in outdoor activities such as bicycling, hiking, and rock-climbing. He credits his love of the outdoors and some important high school influences for his love of the sciences. Gillespie received his Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Reed College in 1981. Initially he struggled with the course load at Reed and contemplated alternative career paths. It was during his fellowship studying photoreceptors at the Neurological Science Institute that he became interested in neuroscience. Following graduation he worked for two years as a lab technician and decided to apply to graduate school. Gillespie matriculated into the Graduate Pharmacology Program at the University of Washington, where he did he research in Joseph A. Beavo's lab. He received his PhD in 1988. He also met and married his wife, Susan K. H. Gillespie, when he was a graduate student. Gillespie accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of California, San Francisco in James Hudspeth's lab only to have to move with Hudspeth a year later to his new lab at the University of Texas Southwest in Dallas, Texas. With Hudspeth, Gillespie began to focus his research on the molecular characterization of auditory hair cells. In 1993 Gillespie was appointed Assistant Professor in the Physiology Department at Johns Hopkins University, which was under new leadership. Unfortunately, after several years the program was not achieving the goals for which Gillespie had hoped; as a result he opted in 1999 to accept a position as an associate professor at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. Gillespie now carries out his research at the Vollum Institute, where he studies auditory hair cell signal transduction and the implications of different myosin isozymes on this complex physiological process. Throughout the oral history Gillespie emphasizes the importance of keeping experiments simple and sharing all scientific discovery. Gillespie has won several awards, including a postdoctoral fellowship, NIH grants, and the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant that he discusses in the oral history.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1981 Reed College BA Chemistry
1988 University of Washington PhD Pharmacology

Professional Experience

University of California, San Francisco

1988 to 1989
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Physiology

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

1989 to 1993
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience

Johns Hopkins University

1993 to 1998
Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology
1998 to 1999
Associate Professor, Department of Physiology

Oregon Health and Science University

1999
Associate Professor, Oregon Hearing Research Center
1999
Affiliated Scientist, Vollum Institute
2000
Co-director, Graduate Neuroscience Program

Honors

Year(s) Award
1994 to 1998

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant

Table of Contents

Growing Up
1

Parents. Ancestors. Reed College. Childhood activities. Reading books. Junior High School. Bicycling. Rock climbing. Parental expectations. High School. Influential teachers. Religion. Social life. Applying to and choosing a university.

Undergraduate Education
18

Attends Reed College. Struggle with workload. Considers forestry school. Fellowship at Neurological Science Institute. Studies photoreceptors. Choosing a career. Two years working as lab technician. Deciding on graduate school. Choosing a graduate school program.

Graduate School Education
23

Enters University of Washington's pharmacology program. Second thoughts. Research in Joseph A Beavo's lab. Meets and marries wife. Wife's education and career. Choosing a postdoctoral lab.

Postdoctoral Research
30

James Hudspeth's lab at the University of California, San Francisco. Moves with Hudspeth to University of Texas Southwest in Dallas, Texas. Dallas compared to San Francisco. Obstacles in Dallas. Research environment. Health issues. Applying for employment. Considerations for wife's Career. Writing grants.

Principal Investigator Research
39

Associate Professorship in physiology department at Johns Hopkins University. Early grants. Receives Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant. Importance of Pew annual meetings. Physiology department challenges. Applying for a new position. Oregon Health and Science University. Vollum Institute. Move back to Oregon. Tenure. Financial structure of Oregon Health and Science University. Publication. Teaching duties. Diversity in graduate school. Women in science. Lab management. Current lab set-Up. Lab meetings. Administrative responsibilities. Traveling.

Personal Life
70

Balancing family and career. Having children. Impact on research. Wife's career and outlook. Contemporary students. Challenges of scientific research. Free time. Family activities. Typical daily schedule. Working early. Childcare responsibilities

Current Research
77

Interest in current research. Auditory system. Hair cell signal transduction. Characterization of myosin isozymes. Using mice to study myosin. Calcium pump and proton extrusion mechanism research. Source of ideas. History of science. Keeping experiments simple. Serendipity. Motivation for research. Medical applications. Patenting science. Commercialization of research. Collaboration and competition. Data fraud. Quality control. Government legislation on science. Human cloning. Stem cell research. Use of animals in the lab. Goals. Personal satisfaction.

Index
105

About the Interviewer

Helene L. Cohen