Daniel E. Gottschling

Born: May 28, 1955 | Gary, IN, US

Daniel E. Gottschling was born in Gary, Indiana, where nearby woods inspired his early interest in science. During his undergraduate years at Augustana College, he majored in chemistry. He attended graduate school at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he helped Thomas Cech set up his lab and worked on ciliate chromosomes, finally focusing on telomeres. After finishing his degree, he accepted a postdoc at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, working on ciliate telomeres in Virginia Zakian's yeast genetics lab. Gottschling accepted an assistant and then an associate professorship at the University of Chicago, leaving behind his ciliates and moving into yeast and epigenetics. He returned to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center seven years later, where he continues his research on yeast.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0432
No. of pages: 88
Minutes: 371

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
8-10 December 1997
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington

Abstract of Interview

Daniel E. Gottschling and his younger sister were born in Gary, Indiana. Their father was first an engineer and then in middle management at Bell Systems; their mother was an architect until she had children. Daniel attended a Lutheran school until the family moved when Daniel was in junior high school. Woods near his house provided free-time entertainment; there he began his interest in science by collecting spiders. Both sets of grandparents lived nearby, and the families were very close. Daniel spent a great deal of time with adults, listening to their stories and absorbing their experiences (and incidentally learning to shoot pool). When Daniel was beginning junior high school the family moved to nearby Portage, Indiana, where Daniel began public school. Although he did not like school and was often sick, he did well, especially in science and mathematics. In eighth grade he had a wonderful biology teacher who knew about spiders, but otherwise Daniel was academically uninspired. He took up violin, began singing in a choir, and acted in all his high school plays. He and two friends formed a rock band that did very well, even playing at Earl of Old Town in Chicago, backup for Steve Goodman. Not sure where to go to college, he visited a friend at Augustana College and decided to go there. He had to drop out of his rock band, but at college he immediately joined a choir, which practiced every day and travelled all over the world, and formed another rock band, all while studying and engaging in philosophical and historical discussions with faculty and fellow students. His chemistry and mathematics classes were excellent, and he chose chemistry as his major. He did not think much about where this was all leading until near the end of college, when he decided he did not want to be a doctor and might want to be a scientist. He was accepted into graduate school at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He helped new faculty member Thomas Cech set up his lab and set to work there. When Gottschling blew up the microwave in the lab and when his experiments were not working out well, he was discouraged and accepted a one-year job at Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison, Colorado, where he taught introductory chemistry. He liked teaching, but found that he liked the bench better and went back to Cech's lab to work on ciliate chromosomes, finally focusing on telomeres. When he saw Seattle he loved it and accepted a postdoc at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, working on ciliate telomeres in Virginia Zakian's yeast genetics lab. Eventually Gottschling accepted an assistant and then an associate professorship at the University of Chicago, leaving behind his ciliates and moving into yeast and epigenetics. After seven years he opted for less teaching and more bench work at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where he continues his research on yeast, believing that if one starts at one end and burrows through to the other end of something he can learn how that something works. Gottschling has won the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences Award and the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology. He still loves music, though he has less time for it than he would like. He teaches in the Science-Education-Partnership (SEP), run by Barbara Berg. And, of course, he continues his beloved benchwork.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1977 Augustana College BA
1980 University of Colorado, Boulder MS
1984 University of Colorado, Boulder PhD

Professional Experience

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

1984 to 1988
Postdoctoral Fellow
1996
Full Member

Western State College of Colorado

1981 to 1982
Instructor, Department of Chemistry

University of Chicago

1989 to 1994
Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, Assistant Professor
1994 to 1996
Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, Associate Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1991 to 1995

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant

1995

National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology

1995 to 1997

Fletcher Scholar of the Cancer Research Foundation

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Born in Gary, Indiana. Family background. Difficult neighborhood. Collecting spiders. Parents' occupations. Mother's support and encouragement. Lutheran elementary school. Moving to Portage, Indiana. Public schools. Inspiring high school biology teacher. Music.

College Years
21

Enters Augustana College. Majors in chemistry. Loves wide-rangingphilosophical discussions. Sings in choir. Soccer. Forms band. Decides not tobe doctor, but has not yet had labwork, so is not sure about science. Workssummers until last summer, when he wins National Science Foundation award todo undergraduate research in C. Weldon Mathews' lab.

Graduate School Years
26

Chooses University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. Starts in quantumchemistry but switches to new department of physical biochemistry. HelpsThomas Cech set up his lab. Works on R loop mapping. Blows up lab'smicrowave. Teaches introductory chemistry at Western Colorado StateUniversity in Gunnison, Colorado for a year. Returns to benchwork in Cech's lab. Gets interested in telomeres. Works with David Prescott.

Postdoc Years
37

Accepts postdoc in Virginia Zakian's lab at Fred Hutchinson Cancer ResearchCenter in Seattle, Washington. Works on ciliate telomeres. Moves from ciliatesinto Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Faculty Years
67

Accepts assistant professorship at the University of Chicago. Creative thinking there. Setting up his lab. Community outreach through Mini-Med School at public library. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Award. National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology. Fetcher Scholar of the Cancer Research Foundation.

Seattle, Washington Years
73

Decides to move to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. Seeks more bench time. Virginia Zakian leaves for Princeton University, opening position. Dismay of others at failure to appoint a woman. Basic science leading to clinical applications. Teaching in Science-Education-Partnership (SEP) program run by Barbara Berg. Balancing life inside the labwith life outside.

Index
85

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan