Nancy M. Hollingsworth

Born: July 2, 1958 | San Francisco, CA, US
Photograph of Nancy M. Hollingsworth

Nancy M. Hollingsworth was born in San Francisco, California and attended Oregon State University. She began working in Peter Dawson's lab very early in her undergraduate career, doing crosses and measuring map distances between genes in Tribolium. A summer course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts helped her decide to attend the University of Washington for doctoral studies. There, she worked in the lab of Breck E. Byers, ultimately developing a mutant screen for yeast recombination proteins and subsequently identifying the HOP1 mutant. After several postdocs, she accepted a position at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, researching the recombinant promoter gene MSH5 in yeast and the roles of the Mms4/Mus81complex and of Mek1 in recombination.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0465
No. of pages: 123
Minutes: 450

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
11-13 November 2002
State University of New York, Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York

Abstract of Interview

Nancy M. Hollingsworth was born in San Francisco, California, but spent most of her youth moving around—to Oregon, Panama, New Mexico, California, and, finally, Arizona—with her parents and older brother. Her father was a psychiatrist (and the reason for the travel); her mother was a trained dietitian who chose not to work while her children were growing up. Hollingsworth enjoyed school from a young age, a precocious child who loved reading, schoolwork (she would also play "school" when at home), playing cards with her family, nature, and music. In high school she had a great interest in literature, mathematics, and history, though did think about pursuing zoology as a major in college. Hollingsworth matriculated at Oregon State University and felt fortunate to have Peter Dawson as her advisor and mentor—Dawson was a population geneticist who worked on the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum and Tribolium confusum, and who also taught the undergraduate genetics class. Though maintaining an interest in history and literature, Hollingsworth began working in Dawson's lab very early on in her undergraduate career, doing crosses and measuring map distances between some genes in Tribolium. She completed her degree in zoology, moving on to a master's degree at Oregon State. She participated in a summer course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, working under the tutelage of Lynna Hereford and Mary Anne Osley and solidifying her decision to attend the University of Washington for doctoral studies (instead of one of the three Ivy league schools that accepted her). At the University of Washington, Hollingsworth chose to work in the lab of Breck E. Byers, studying meiosis in yeast, ultimately developing a mutant screen for yeast recombination proteins and subsequently identifying the HOP1 mutant; she also had the opportunity to meet Leland H. Hartwell, with whom she also worked. From there she moved on to postdoctoral research in Gerald R. Smith's laboratory at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, studying Schizosaccharomyces pombe recombination, at which point she also met her future husband, Aaron Neiman. She transferred to the University of California, San Francisco to work with Alexander D. Johnson on Hop1 biochemistry and HOP1 alleles. She then accepted a position at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and began her research on the recombinant promoter gene MSH5 in yeast and on the roles of the Mms4/Mus81 complex and of Mek1 in recombination. The remainder of the interview focuses on the topics of Hollingworth's lab, her mentoring style, and her thoughts on contemporary issues in science and its practice. She talks about the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on her work; her teaching duties; how she chooses her research projects; and how she balances family (she has three children) and career. The interview ends with her thoughts on collaboration and competition in research; the national scientific agenda the role of scientists in informing the public and determining public policy; gender issues; and more on the influence of Lynna Hereford and Mary Ann Osley on her career.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1980 Oregon State University BS Zoology
1988 University of Washington PhD Genetics

Professional Experience

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

1988 to 1989
Postdoctoral Fellow

University of California, San Francisco

1989 to 1994
Postdoctoral Fellow

State University of New York at Stony Brook

1994 to 2000
Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology
2000
Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1978 to 1980

Oregon State Scholarship-Leadership Honoree

1979

C. Robert Herrick Jr. Memorial Scholarship

1980

BS with highest honors

1981

Jim Mountain Memorial Scholarship

1988 to 1991

Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund Postdoctoral Fellowship

1991 to 1993

American Cancer Society Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship

1995 to 1997

March of Dimes Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award

1995

Ad hoc member of the NSF Microbial Genetics Study Section

1996 to 2000

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences

2000 to 2004

Member of the NIH Microbial Genetics and Physiology II Study Section

2002

Member of the Pew Charitable Trust Sponsored Science and SocietyInstitute

Table of Contents

Childhood
1

Family background. Paul A. Hollingsworth. Childhood experiences. Interest in reading, music, games, and puzzles. Family interactions. Early schooling in Berkeley, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Influential grammar school teachers. Extracurricular activities.

High School and College
17

Attends Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley soon afterIntegration. Becomes interested in science during high school in Tempe, Arizona. Majors in zoology at Oregon State University. Peter Dawson is her undergraduate advisor and mentor. Develops love of genetics while working on Tribolium in Dawson's lab. Interests in history and literature. Travels to Ireland for a summer to study James Joyce. Master's degree at Oregon State. Formative summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Takes a yeast genetics class there with Lynna Hereford and Mary Ann Osley.

Graduate School and Postdoctoral Years
32

Graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle. Meets Leland H. Hartwell. Doctoral research on meiosis in yeast in Breck E. Byers's laboratory. Postdoctoral research in Gerald R. Smith's laboratory at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Develops a mutant screen for yeast recombinationproteins. Identifies the Hop1 mutant while working in Breck E. Byers's lab. Work on Schizosaccharomyces pombe recombination during postdoc. Meets her future husband, Aaron Neiman, in Smith's laboratory. Transfers to the University of California, San Francisco to work with Alexander D. Johnson. Postdoctoral research in Johnson's lab on Hop1 biochemistry and Hop1 alleles.

Faculty Years
56

Accepts a position at State University of New York, Stony Brook. Work on the recombinant promoter gene MSH5 in yeast. Current research projects on the roles of the Mms4/Mus81 complex and of Mek1 in recombination. Human infertility.

Final Thoughts
70

The impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Writing journal articles. Balancing family and career. The tenure process at State University of New York, Stony Brook. Collaboration in research. Her views on how to improve the quality of science in the United States. More on the influence of Lynna Hereford and Mary Ann Osley. Her interest in meiosis as thesubject of her research. The peer review system.

Index
119

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten