Mark W. Grinstaff

Born: December 31, 1969TX, US

Mark W. Grinstaff was born in Texas, the elder of two sons. He attended Occidental College. As a sophomore working in Franklin DeHaan's kinetic chemistry laboratory he fell in love with lab research. Grinstaff chose graduate school at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign because they had a strong inorganic chemistry department and because it was not California. There he worked in Kenneth S. Suslick's laboratory; his doctoral project used sound waves to make amorphous iron and protein-microsphere compounds. For his postdoc, Grinstaff conducted research on electron transfer and catalysis in Harry Gray's laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. Grinstaff accepted a position at Duke University and foraged for equipment to set up his lab; he prefers to spend his money on people. He describes his research making diagnostic devices based on DNA electron transfer, designing single molecular-weight polymers, and polymers for ophthalmic wound repair. He continues with more clinical applications of his research; the issue of patents; commercialization of his research (he has founded two companies); his current research projects in biomaterials chemistry and nanotechnology; and the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his work.

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0610
No. of pages: 109
Minutes: 400

Interview Sessions

Karen A. Frenkel
19-20 and 22 September 2005
Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts

Abstract of Interview

Mark W. Grinstaff was born in Texas, the elder of two sons. His father was in the United States Air Force, and the family moved a number of times during Grinstaff's childhood. He has lived in Japan and at least six states; his longest time in one place was when he was in college. His father was an administrator who brought troubled hospitals up to standard. His mother stayed at home until her children were in high school, and then she became an accountant. His brother became a hospital administrator and joined the military, just like their father. Grinstaff stayed in Redlands, California, for high school; he liked his chemistry, biology, and physics classes, at which he had to work hard. He also played tennis and was very active in Boy Scouts of America. Grinstaff attended Occidental College. As a sophomore working in Franklin DeHaan's kinetic chemistry laboratory he fell in love with lab research. He had vacillated between medicine and international relations before this, but now he was sure he wanted to be in science. To help pay the bills, Grinstaff worked in the hummingbird section of a museum for his first year; after that he became a teaching assistant in a chemistry lab class. His experience at the museum convinced him he was less interested in biology than chemistry. By his junior year he had decided that he wanted to do research, not go into medicine, and he declared a chemistry major. Grinstaff chose graduate school at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign because they had a strong inorganic chemistry department and because it was not California. There he worked in Kenneth S. Suslick's laboratory; his doctoral project used sound waves to make amorphous iron and protein-microsphere compounds. Here he talks about wider applications of his doctoral research; his own management style versus Suslick's; what he likes best about being a principal investigator; writing journal articles; and his patents. Rather than working in industry he decided to do a postdoctoral fellowship. For his postdoc, Grinstaff conducted research on electron transfer and catalysis in Harry Gray's laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. While there he met the woman with whom he eloped on the way to his first job. Here he discusses Gray's laboratory management style as compared to his own, and speculates on the source of one's ideas. Grinstaff accepted a position at Duke University and foraged for equipment to set up his lab; he prefers to spend his money on people. Here he explains his research making diagnostic devices based on DNA electron transfer, designing single molecular-weight polymers, and polymers for ophthalmic wound repair. He continues with more clinical applications of his research; the issue of patents; commercialization of his research (he has founded two companies); his current research projects in biomaterials chemistry and nanotechnology; and the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his work. Grinstaff felt Duke did not provide an environment conducive to interdisciplinary work. He was very interested in many things, from lasers to biochemistry, and did not want to be "put in a box." He had co-founded two companies by then. He accepted a position at Boston University, with a joint appointment in chemistry and engineering. He talks about his lab makeup and management; his administrative and teaching duties; funding; biomaterials chemistry; grant writing; and his future research plans. He gives his opinions on a variety of common issues in science: the dearth of minorities; the falling-away of women as they attain higher positions; lack of science literacy in the United States; competition and collaboration. He concludes by describing how he and his wife, also a PhD chemist, balance their home life with their work life.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1987 Occidental College AB with Honors Chemistry
1992 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign PhD

Professional Experience

California Institute of Technology

1992 to 1996
Postdoctoral Training, with Professor Harry B. Gray
1993 to 1995
NIH Postdoctoral Fellow
1995 to 1996
Senior Research Fellow

Duke University

1996 to 2002
Member of the Biological Chemistry Program
1997 to 2002
Member of the Pharmacology Training Grant Program
1997 to 2003
Member of the Center for Cellular & Biosurface Engineering
1999 to 2003
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology (Secondary Appointment), Duke University Medical Center
2001 to 2003
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering (Secondary Appointment), School of Engineering
1996 to 2003
Assistant Professor of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences
2003
Adjunct Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering

Boston University

2003
Associate Professor of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences
2003
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology (Secondary Appointment), Boston University Medical School
2003
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
2004
Member of the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1981

Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America)

1987

Service Award for Alpha Chi Sigma

1987

Occidental College Chemistry Department Honors

1987

Frank Lambert Chemistry Award

1988

Excellence in Teaching (Fall and Spring)

1989

Membership to Phi lambda Upsilon (Chemical Honor Society)

1989

University of Illinois Chemistry Department Fellowship

1990

ACS Fellowship of the Colloid and Surface Division (sponsored by Procter & Gamble)

1991

T. S. Piper Award for Outstanding Inorganic Research

1991

Biotechnology Center Travel Award

1991

Sigma Xi Research paper Competition (second prize)

1993

National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship

1994

ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award

1998

Whitaker Foundation Grant Recipient

1999

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1999

NSF Career Award

2000

Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship

2000

Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar

2001

Johnson and Johnson Focused Giving Grant Recipient

2001

3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award

2002

Selected by National Academy of Engineering to attend the Annual JST International Interdisciplinary Research Exchange Symposium

2003

Selected by NSF/DFG to attend the VIIth American German Polymer Symposium

Table of Contents

Childhood and College
1

Family's travels. Childhood interests and experiences. Parents. Brother. Favorite classes during high school in Redlands, California. Religion. Attends Occidental College in California. Parental expectations. College experiences. Experience in Franklin DeHaan's kinetic chemistry laboratory. DeHaan'slaboratory management style. Science presentations during college. Extracurricular activities. Decision to pursue science as a career. Social life incollege.

Graduate School and Postdoctoral Research
16

Attends graduate school at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. View ofUrbana-Champaign, Illinois. Graduate program at the University of Illinois. Works in Kenneth S. Suslick's laboratory. Doctoral project in physical inorganicchemistry using sound waves to make amorphous iron and protein microspherecompounds. Wider application of doctoral research. Running of the Suslicklaboratory. Writing journal articles. Conducting scientific research in new areas. Patents. Decides to do a postdoctoral fellowship rather than work in industry. Postdoctoral research on electron transfer and catalysis in Harry B. Gray'slaboratory at the California Institute of Technology. Gray's laboratorymanagement style. Meets and marries wife. Reasons for becoming a principalinvestigator. Source of ideas for research projects.

Duke University and Boston University
37

Accepts a position at Duke University. Wife's career. Setting up his lab. Research making diagnostic devices based on DNA electron transfer, designingsingle molecular-weight polymers, and polymers for ophthalmic wound repair. Patents. Commercialization of research. Current research projects in biomaterialschemistry and nanotechnology. Pew Scholars Program in the BiomedicalSciences. Reasons for leaving Duke University. Accepts a position at BostonUniversity with a joint appointment in chemistry and engineering. Teachingresponsibilities. Administrative duties. Setting up lab at Boston University. Funding. Grant-writing process.

Final Thoughts
67

Setting the national science agenda. Pursuing interdisciplinary studies in science. Future research plans. Typical workday. Travel commitments. Duties toprofessional community. Leisure activities. Competition in science. Gender. Percentage of women as graduate students. Minority groups in science. Role ofthe scientist in improving science literacy. Professional and personal goals. Prioritizing research projects. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.

Index
107

About the Interviewer

Karen A. Frenkel

Karen A. Frenkel is a writer, documentary producer, and author specializing in science and technology and their impacts on society. She wrote Robots: Machines in Man’s Image (Harmony 1985) with Isaac Asimov. Her articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers including The New York TimesCyberTimesBusiness Week, Communications Magazine, DiscoverForbesNew Media, Personal Computing, Scientific American, Scientific American MIND, The Village Voice, and Technology Review. Ms. Frenkel’s award-winning documentary films, Net Learning and Minerva’s Machine: Women and Computing aired on Public Television. She has been an interviewer for Columbia University’s Oral History Research Center’s 9/11 Narrative and Memory project, The National Press Foundation’s Oral History of Women in Journalism, and the International Psychoanalytic Institute for Training and Research’s Oral History. Professional memberships include: The Authors Guild, National Association of Science Writers, Writer’s Guild of America East, and New York Women in Film and Television: Past Member of the Board and Director of Programming. Her website is www.Karenafrenkel.com.