Jonathan M. Horowitz

Born: June 24, 1958 | Brooklyn, NY, US
Photograph of Jonathan M. Horowitz

Jonathan M. Horowitz was born in Brooklyn, New York. By high school he had decided become a researcher in molecular biology, like Francis Crick. He attended a high school with no grades; he even designed his own courses. Hearing about its unstructured curriculum, he attended Brown University, but struggled to do well. For graduate school, Horowitz attended the University of Wisconsin, where he worked in Rex Risser's lab on mouse retroviruses. Shifting to oncogenes, he next joined Robert Weinberg's lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. In collaboration with Edward Harlow, Horowitz discovered Rb is an E1A-binding protein and mapped the E1A- binding region on Rb. He is now at North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, where he finds much support for his research.

Access This Interview

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0436
No. of pages: 92
Minutes: 450

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
13-15 January 1998
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

Abstract of Interview

Jonathan M. Horowitz was born in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a food photographer and his mother a housewife who later returned to work for a foundation. His family was "culturally" Jewish; their holidays were celebrated mostly with food rather than religious ceremonies. From an early age Horowitz was interested in science, particularly in "small things"; by high school age he had decided to obtain a PhD and become a researcher in molecular biology, á la Francis Crick. He attended a new—and at that time trendy—high school where there were no competition, no sports, no grades; there he even designed his own courses. Following what he describes as a "common theme" in his life, namely no planning, he decided to go to Brown University because someone he knew was a student there. She told Horowitz that Brown was unstructured, so he could skip classwork and just do research in a lab. At Brown, having to take classes after all, he struggled during his first year and was given a last chance to do well. He did finish, but with a poor grade point average. During his last year he took an ultrastructure class, in which he worked with Lloyd Matsumoto, an electron microscopy expert in Peter Shank's lab. Horowitz says that his main accomplishment in that lab was to have met his future wife, who was working there as a technician. For graduate school, Horowitz was accepted at University of Wisconsin and at Johns Hopkins University. Not having investigated very much, he "asked around" as to which school he should attend. The brother of someone down the hall from Horowitz's lab ran a lab at Wisconsin, so Horowitz decided to go to Wisconsin. There he began with a rotation with Howard Temin; the rotation did not work out well, so Horowitz went to Rex Risser's lab to work on mouse retroviruses, notably strains of leukemia. When his wife accepted a job at Harvard, Horowitz had to find a postdoc in the Boston area. Shifting his interest from retroviruses to oncogenes, he again "asked around" and was referred to Robert Weinberg's lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Originally working on ras protein, he eventually switched to Rb, sequencing the Rb gene and trying to develop antibodies against it. In collaboration with Edward Harlow Horowitz discovered that Rb is an E1A-binding protein and mapped the E1A- binding region on Rb. Finishing their postdocs, Horowitz and his wife had to find a place where both could have jobs. Horowitz's wife found a position at North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, and Horowitz accepted an assistant professorship at Duke University. There he spent much of his time seeking support for his research. Duke's commitment to cancer research was hardly unwavering, and Horowitz's identity as a molecular cancer biologist counted against him in the tenure decision. When he was not granted tenure he accepted an associate professorship at North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine; here he finds much more support for his research, though he is still establishing his lab. He continues to work with the Rb gene; to seek funding; to publish; and to balance his work with his wife and two children.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1980 Brown University BA
1985 University of Wisconsin, Madison PhD

Professional Experience

Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1986 to 1989
Postdoctoral Fellow

Brown University

1987
Adjunct Assistant Professor

Duke University

1989 to 1993
Assistant Professor, Section of Cell Growth, Regulation, and Oncogenesis
1989 to 1997
Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology
1993 to 1997
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Cancer Biology

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

1997
College of Veterinary Medicine, Research Associate Professor of Oncology, Department of Anatomy, Physiological Sciences, and Radiology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1991 to 1993

American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award

1992 to 1996

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1994 to 1999

American Cancer Society Faculty Research Award

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Impact of Jewish culture on Horowitz's childhood. Father's career as a photographer and artistic atmosphere in Horowitz's home. Parental expectations. Horowitz's continuing friendship with boyhood classmates. Attends experimental high school and designs his own courses. Early interest in science and the space program. Decides to become a biologist while still inhigh school. His certainty about pursuing a PhD in science.

College Years
18

Attends Brown University. His first difficult years at Brown and near expulsion. Joins the Peter R. Shank laboratory in his senior year.

Graduate Years
24

Begins graduate work at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Completes a rotation in Howard M. Temin's lab. Enters Rex G. Risser's lab. Goes from being a molecular virologist to studying oncogenes.

Postgraduate Years
35

Takes a postdoc at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Adjusting to the size and complexity of the Robert A. Weinberg laboratory. Works on the ras protein. Sequences the Rb gene. Trying to develop antibodies against the Rb protein. Resistance to Weinberg's lab's findings about the Rb gene. Difficulties involved in studying the first tumor suppressor genes. In collaboration with Edward E. Harlow discovers that Rb is an E1A-binding protein. Maps the E1A- binding region on Rb.

Faculty Years
59

Accepts a position at Duke University. Establishment of the Department of Molecular Cancer Biology at Duke. Politics of science and Duke's varying commitment to cancer research. Horowitz's identity as a "molecular cancer biologist. Funding. Leaves Duke University after failing to receive tenure. Accepts a position at North Carolina State University at Raleigh, College of Veterinary Medicine. Recent breakthroughs with the Rb gene. Juggling of family and career. Gender discrimination in science. Effect that being a Pew scholar has had on Horowitz's career and his science.

Index
91

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan