Jean T. Greenberg

Born: July 10, 1961 | New York City, NY, US

Jean T. Greenberg was raised in New York City and attended Barnard College, where time spent working in a biophysics lab piqued her interest in the subject. She decided to study biophysics at Harvard University. There she worked in Bruce Demple's laboratory defining the genes involved in the control of the adaptive responses to oxidative stress in bacteria. She appreciated the freedom and personal attention she received, as well as the strong support group of other students and professors. She stayed at Harvard for her postdoc, studying disease resistance and symptoms in the plant Arabidopsis. Next, she accepted a position at University of Colorado, Boulder, mapping and characterizing the genes involved in disease resistance, and then at the University at Chicago, where she is today.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0463
No. of pages: 72
Minutes: 300

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
17-18 June 2002
The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Abstract of Interview

Jean T. Greenberg was raised, principally, in New York City with her mother, though she spent weekends in Connecticut with her father; Greenberg had one older brother. Her father was a physician with "the heart" of a scientist; her mother was interested in the arts and worked as a multi-faceted assistant to an author. Greenberg attended private schools in New York City throughout her childhood, but found them unable to cope with students who had interests that went beyond the curriculum or those who were more advanced than their classmates. She maintained strong friendships with peers interested in the humanities and the arts, but found herself much more interested in mathematics and the sciences. Her time outside of school was occupied with enjoying the culture and opportunities of New York City, working, and the weekend commutes to Connecticut. Greenberg applied early to, and was accepted at, Barnard College, where she continued her New York City life while earning her undergraduate degree. Working in a biophysics lab piqued her interest and she decided to apply to biophysics programs for graduate school, ultimately deciding to attend Harvard University. At Harvard, she chose to work in Bruce Demple's laboratory defining the genes involved in the control of the adaptive responses to oxidative stress in bacteria, and appreciating the freedom and personal attention this decision provided, as well as the strong support group of other students and professors in the Boston area. From there, she and her future husband, Adam Driks, decided to remain in Boston and Greenberg began a postdoctoral fellowship in Frederick M. Ausubel's laboratory at Harvard, studying disease resistance and symptoms in the plant Arabidopsis. After her postdoctoral work, she accepted a position at the University of Colorado, Boulder, mapping and characterizing the genes involved in disease resistance, and then at the University at Chicago, working on adaptive resistance to disease, on a pathogen's ability to elicit disease, and on the biology of disease symptoms. At the end of the interview, Greenberg talks about the process of writing journal articles; her lab management style and her professional responsibilities; creativity in science; setting the national science agenda; and the role of the scientist to inform the public. She finishes with a discussion of the privatization of research; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in her research.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1983 Barnard College BA Biochemistry
1989 Harvard University PhD Biophysics

Professional Experience

Massachusetts General Hospital

1989 to 1994
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular Biology

Harvard University

1989 to 1994
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Genetics

University of Colorado, Boulder

1995 to 1997
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

University of Chicago

1997 to 2003
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology and Committee on Genetics
2002 to 2003
Assistant Professor and Committee on Microbiology
2003
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, Committee on Genetics, and Committee on Microbiology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1983

Magna Cum Laude, Barnard College

1989 to 1992

NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Plant Biology

1996 to 1999

American Cancer Society Research Fellow

1996 to 2016

Pew Biomedical Scholar

Table of Contents

Childhood
1

Family background. Traits she inherited from her mother. Relationship with her father. Growing up in New York City, New York, and New Haven, Connecticut. Father's interest in science. Early schooling. Childhood experiences and interests. Attending private schools in New York City. Interest in mathematics and science. Influential teachers and mentors. Parental expectations.

College Years
15

Attends Barnard College. Meets and later marries her husband. Decides to pursue science after working in a laboratory during college. Has a pivotal college experience in an organic chemistry laboratory. The impact of religion. Extracurricular activities in high school.

Graduate School and Postdoctoral Years
28

Attends Harvard University for graduate school. The biophysics graduate program at Harvard. Bruce Demple's laboratory and management style. Doctoral research defining the genes involved in the control of the adaptive responses to oxidative stress in bacteria. Postdoctoral fellowship in Frederick M. Ausubel's laboratory. The process of writing journal articles. Postdoctoral research on disease resistance and symptoms in the plant, Arabidopsis.

Faculty Years
34

Greenberg accepts a position at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her husband's career. Setting up her laboratory at Boulder. Mapping and characterizing the genes involved in disease resistance. Moves to the University of Chicago. Tenure at the University at Chicago. Current research on adaptive resistance to disease, on a pathogen's ability to elicit disease, and on the biologyof disease symptoms. Teaching responsibilities. Funding history.

Final Thoughts
46

The process of writing journal articles. Lab management style. Leisure activities. Patents. Creativity in science. Competition and collaboration. Her criteria for pursuing a particular research project. The national science agenda. The role of the scientist to inform the public. Impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.

Index
71

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten