Theodore S. Jardetzky

Born: August 12, 1960 | Boston, MA, US
Photograph of Theodore S. Jardetzky

Theodore S. Jardetzky was raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Both of his parents were scientists, his father later a faculty member at Stanford. In addition to music, he also had a longtime interest in mathematics and science, and had influential teachers in chemistry and biology. Jardetzky matriculated at Stanford University in order to explore both science and the humanities. He worked in his father's lab, researched the structure of the acetylcholine receptor, and met Kasper Kirschner, with whom Jardetzky decided to work at University of Basel, Switzerland, for his graduate studies. There, Jardetzky looked at the kinetics and equilibrium binding of enzyme reactions. He is now at Northwestern University, where he researches structure of membrane proteins, properties of protein structure, and organization of cellular structures.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0466
No. of pages: 100
Minutes: 350

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
3-5 June 2002

Abstract of Interview

Theodore S. Jardetzky was raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and Palo Alto, California, the middle of three brothers. Both of his parents were scientists: his father emigrated from Austria to attend Macalester College, remaining in the United States to receive an MD and PhD from the University of Minnesota, and then working at the California Institute of Technology (with Linus Pauling), Harvard Medical School, Merck and Company, and, finally, Stanford University (as a professor of pharmacology); his mother emigrated from Greece to attend Macalester and then pursued her doctorate at the University of Minnesota. As a child, Jardetzky loved to read and was fascinated by music, wanting to play the trumpet but then settling for the clarinet and, later, the saxophone. He spent much time playing with his siblings and friends made in the community of Stanford faculty. In addition to music, he also had a longtime interest in mathematics and science, and had influential teachers in chemistry and biology in high school.
Unsure of what he wanted to pursue for a career, Jardetzky matriculated at Stanford University in order to explore both science and the humanities. While there, he worked in his father’s (Oleg Jardetzky) lab alongside his stepmother, Norma Gene Jardetzky, which proved quite formative: he undertook a senior research project on the structure of the acetylcholine receptor and had the opportunity to meet Kasper Kirschner, with whom Jardetzky decided to work in the Biozentrum at the University of Basel, Switzerland, for his graduate studies. In Kirschner’s lab, Jardetzky looked at the kinetics and equilibrium binding of enzyme reactions and had the fortune to meet Donald C. Wiley, who became his postdoctoral advisor. In Wiley’s lab at Harvard University Jardetzky researched the structure and mechanism of peptide binding for MHC Class II histocompatibility proteins, after which he accepted a position at Northwestern University looking at the interactions of the immune response, the structure of antibody receptors, and viral pathogenesis.
The interview concludes with reflections on Jardetzky’s professional and personal goals; his future research on the structure of membrane proteins, on the properties of protein structure, and on the organization of cellular structures; the importance of the history of science in research; and collaborations and competition in research. At the end of the interview, he talks about setting the national science agenda; the role of the scientist in educating the public; gender issues in science; and the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his work.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1982 Stanford University BS Chemistry
1986 University of Basel PhD Biophysical Chemistry

Professional Experience

University of Basel

1982 to 1986
Pre-doctoral Fellow
1986
Postdoctoral Fellow

Harvard University

1986 to 1994
Postdoctoral Fellow

Northwestern University

1994 to 2000
Assistant Professor
2000 to 2003
Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology and Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1986

PhD awarded summa cum laude

1990 to 1993

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Cancer Research Institute

1996 to 2000

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences

1999 to 2003

Investigator Award, Cancer Research Institute

2000

Ad hoc Member, NIH Allergy & Immunology Study Section

2000 to 2003

Member, NIH Allergy & Immunology Study Section

2001 to 2003

Scholar of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

2001 to 2003

NIH MERIT Award

2002 to 2003

Henry and Soretta Shapiro Research Professor in Molecular Biology

Table of Contents

Childhood
1

Family background. Parents. Siblings. Early schooling. Interest in music and reading. Influential teachers. Attends junior high and high school in Palo Alto, California. Extracurricular activities. Parental expectations

College Years
17

Attends Stanford University. College interests and experiences. Decision to pursue science rather than humanities. Senior research project in Oleg Jardetzky's laboratory on the structure of the acetylcholine receptor. Meets Kasper Kirschner and decides to work in his laboratory at the University of Basel. Social life during college.

Graduate School and Postdoctoral Years
30

The Biocenter (Biozentrum) at the University of Basel. The Kasper Kirschner laboratory. Doctoral work on kinetics and equilibrium binding of enzyme reactions. Meets Donald C. Wiley and works in his laboratory at Harvard University. Kirschner's mentoring style. Wiley's mentoring style. Postdoctoral research on the structure and mechanism of peptide binding for MHC Class II histocompatibility proteins. His wife.

Faculty Years
54

Accepts a position at Northwestern University. Setting up his laboratory. Current research on the interactions of the immune response, structure of antibody receptors, and viral pathogenesis. His role in the laboratory. Teaching responsibilities. Lab management style. The process of writing journal articles. The federal grant-review system. Balancing family and career.

Final Thoughts
70

Future research on the structure of membrane proteins, on the properties of protein structure, and the organization of cellular structures. Patents. The history of science in research. Competition and collaborations in research. The national science agenda. The role of the scientist in educating the public. Gender issues in science. The impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant. Ways to improve the grant-funding process.

Index
97

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten