Bruce A. Hamilton

Born: 1964 | Palo Alto, CA, US
Photograph of Bruce A. Hamilton

Bruce A. Hamilton was born in Palo Alto, California and grew up in Santa Clarita. In high school he had two excellent biology teachers and an excellent chemistry and calculus teacher; their influence further encouraged his love of science. Hamilton matriculated at University of California at San Diego, where as a sophomore he discovered an interest in genetics. He did so well in his first genetics class that he was asked to be a teaching assistant the next year. He spent his senior year in Richard Firtel's lab. With the guidance of Richard Firtel and the two teachers of that first genetics class, he ended up at California Institute of Technology for graduate school. There he began working with flies in Elliot Meyerowitz's lab, eventually leaving for Kai Zinn's lab, where he would concentrate more on neural development. He finished his PhD, married, and moved to Boston, where Hamilton took up his postdoc at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at Massachusetts of Technology; he worked in Eric Lander's lab for five years. From there he moved back to San Diego and accepted a position at the University of California at San Diego.

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0611
No. of pages: 97
Minutes: 400

Interview Sessions

Robin Mejia
5-7 October 2005
University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California

Abstract of Interview

Bruce A. Hamilton was born in Palo Alto, California, where his father was a graduate student in engineering. His mother was at that time a housewife. Having finished his master's degree, the older Hamilton began work in the aerospace industry in Lompoc, California; he then moved to Lockheed Martin and from there to Allied Chemical, where he helped develop airbags. The family moved to Dallas for a year and then to Michigan for two years. When Bruce was about eight they settled in Santa Clarita, where Bruce finished growing up. Bruce's father often brought things home from work, things to set on fire or to explode or otherwise to illustrate science and his own work, so Bruce had a very early exposure to science. His childhood years were otherwise typical of a middle-class family of the time. In elementary school his class had a two-year project that involved building a city; the pupils had to build it physically from Styrofoam, to organize a government for it, etc. Hamilton still thinks it was a wonderful way to instill understanding, knowledge, and enthusiasm for learning in children. In high school he had two excellent biology teachers and an excellent chemistry and calculus teacher; from them he increased his propensity to love science. He also found a non-denominational church attractive, and for a while he considered becoming a minister. In his spare time he attended Boys State, built a darkroom for his photography, and took up drums. Hamilton matriculated at University of California at San Diego, where as a sophomore he discovered that he loved genetics. He did so well in his first genetics class that he was asked to be a teaching assistant the next year. He spent his senior year in Richard Firtel's lab. With the guidance of Richard Firtel and the two teachers of that first genetics class, he ended up at California Institute of Technology for graduate school. There he began working with flies in Elliot Meyerowitz's lab, eventually leaving for Kai Zinn's lab, where he would concentrate more on neural development. He finished his PhD, married, and moved to Boston, where Hamilton took up his postdoc at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at Massachusetts of Technology, where he worked in Eric Lander's lab for five years. From there he moved back to San Diego, where he accepted a position at the University of California at San Diego. There he continues his research in neurogenetics; writes grant proposals and journal articles; teaches; and attempts to balance his work life with his family life.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1986 University of California, San Diego BA Molecular Biology
1993 California Institute of Technology PhD Biology

Professional Experience

California Institute of Technology

1986 to 1993
Predoctoral Research in the laboratories of Kai Zinn and Elliot Meyerowitz

Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1993 to 1996
Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Eric Lander
1996 to 1998
Postdoctoral Associate in the laboratory of Eric Lander

University of California, San Diego

1998 to 2005
Assistant Professor, Division of Genetics, Department of Medicine
1999 to 2005
Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
2000
Participating Member, Cancer Genetics Program, Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center
2005

Honors

Year(s) Award
1993 to 1996

Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellowship

1999 to 2001

Basil O'Connor Starter Scholars Award, March of Dimes

1999 to 2003

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

2001

Certificate of Appreciation, Office of National Drug Control Policy

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Childhood interests and experiences. Early schooling. Junior high and high school. Influential biology teachers. Parental expectations. Extracurricular activities.

College Years
15

Attends the University of California, San Diego. Hamilton has a definingexperience in a genetics course by Dan Lindsley and Adelaide. His senior research in Richard Firtel's molecular biology laboratory. His decision to pursuea career in science. Meets his future wife.

Graduate Years
24

Attends graduate school at California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Thegraduate program at Caltech. Works in Elliot M. Meyerowitz's laboratory with Michael Palazzolo to develop genetic tools to study developmentally regulated transcription of the neuron. More on Hamilton's doctoral research in neuraldevelopmental genetics. More on his doctoral research in neurogenetics. Meyerowitz' s management style. Hamilton's doctoral work in Kai Zinn'slaboratory on axon guidance in neural development. Women at Caltech. Article writing.

Postgraduate Years
42

The impact of religion on Hamilton. His decision to do a postdoctoral fellowship with Eric Lander at the Whitehead Institute at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The running of the Lander lab. Competition in science. Hamilton'sview of Boston.

Faculty Years
58

Accepts a position at University of California, San Diego. Setting up his lab. Hamilton's management style. Qualities of a good scientist. Funding. Impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award on his work. The grant-writing process. Hamilton's current research in neurogenetics. Hisrole in the lab. The process of writing journal articles. Teaching responsibilities. Administrative duties. His professional and personal goals. Creativity in science. Public policy and scientific research. Women in science. Balancing familyand career.

Index
93

About the Interviewer

Robin Mejia