Gokhan S. Hotamisligil
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Gökhan S. Hotamisligil was born in the small town of Pazar on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, the youngest of three siblings. He moved several times when young, attending at least three separate elementary schools, though he spent most of his youth in the city of Ankara. His father was a physician who served underdeveloped areas of Turkey (hence the early travel); his mother was trained as a teacher but spent her time raising Hotamisligil, his brother, and his sister. Hotamisligil learned much from his family intellectually, socially, and culturally, and from the private boarding school he attended for middle and high schools in Ankara. He was a varsity athlete in high school (track and field, volleyball, and table tennis) and was interested in his studies, though his science classes did not provide him with much experience in experimentation. He wanted to be a physician from an early age. He took the entrance exam for and attended Ankara University to obtain his medical degree during a time of political upheaval in Turkey (the 1980 military coup). Hotamisligil decided to specialize in pediatrics and was fortunate to have his residency at Ankara University instead of serving his compulsory government service in the remote town of Bingöl. While at Ankara, he became interested in genetics while preparing a seminar on the molecular basis of thalassemia. His wife's scholarship to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center for Mental Retardation in Massachusetts gave him the opportunity to apply for a position in Xandra O. Breakefield's laboratory at Harvard Medical School. Hotamisligil's work on monoamine oxidases in Breakefield's lab led him to apply for graduate study at Harvard; he undertook his graduate research on tumor necrosis factor, obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes in Bruce M. Spiegelman's laboratory. He remained there for a postdoctoral fellowship until accepting an offer for a position at the Harvard School of Public Health. After setting up his lab, he began his work on the molecular mechanisms of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and began to think about studying the connections between the immune and metabolic systems, the inflammatory response, and disease. The interview ends with reflections on role of serendipity in his work; the process of writing grants and journal articles; and balancing family and career. Hotamisligil concludes the oral history with thoughts about the direction of the national scientific agenda; the role of the scientist in shaping public policy; the industrialization of science; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences for his previous and current work.
|1986||Ankara University Medical School||MD|
|1994||Harvard Medical School||PhD||Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology|
Harvard Medical School
Harvard University School of Public Health
Harvard University, Division of Medical Sciences Predoctoral Fellowship
Lucille P. Markey Predoctoral Fellowship in Developmental Biology
American Diabetes Association Postdoctoral Fellowship
|1996 to 1999||
Career Development Award, American Diabetes Association
|1997 to 2001||
Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant
|2003 to 2006||
Sandler Family Foundation Sr. Investigator Award, Program for Asthma Research
James Stevens Simmons Endowed Professorship in Genetics & Metabolism
Elected Member, TUBA, Turkish National Academy of Sciences and Recipient, TUBITAK Science Award
Table of Contents
Early education. Parents. Siblings. Private boarding school in Ankara, Turkey. Extracurricular activities. Influential teachers and science classes. His wife and children. Religion. Parental expectations. The political situation in Turkey during his early college and medical school years.
Ankara University. Meeting his future wife. Specializing in pediatric medicine. Fellowship in pediatrics. Compulsory government service in Bingöl, Turkey. Residency at Ankara University. Interest in genetics. His wife's scholarship to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center for Mental Retardation in Massachusetts. Xandra O. Breakefield at Harvard Medical School.
First impressions of the United States. Work on monoamine oxidases. Graduate school at Harvard University. Bruce M. Spiegelman. Doctoral research on tumor necrosis factor, obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Postdoctoral fellowship in Spiegelman's lab. Position at the Harvard School of Public Health. Setting up his laboratory. Research on the molecular mechanisms of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Lab management style. His children. Practical applications of his research. Teaching responsibilities and travel commitments. The grant-writing process. Journal articles. Balancing family and career. Leisure activities. Patents. The source of his ideas for scientific research. Tenure at Harvard. Competition and collaboration in research.
The direction of the national scientific agenda. The role of the scientist in shaping public policy. Women in the sciences. Gender issues in science. The impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Funding history. Improving the quality of science.