Mark P. Kamps

Born: September 6, 1959 | Detroit, MI, US

Mark P. Kamps grew up in New Jersey, where religion was important to family life, which taught him that science and religion can coexist. Interested in both chemistry and biology, he double-majored at Calvin College. At University of California, San Diego, he became interested in Bartholomew Sefton's work in avian retroviruses and worked in his lab. Kamps talks about his love of bench work, his relationship with Sefton, the need for students to design experiments, and ethics in science. Kamps accepted a postdoc in David Baltimore's lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then took a position at UCSD. He discusses his discovery of E2A-Pbx1, and how it furthered his career, funding, ideal research environments, gender issues, students in the lab, and the importance of advancing science literacy.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0437
No. of pages: 133
Minutes: 500

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
10-12 February 1998
University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California

Abstract of Interview

Mark P. Kamps grew up in northern New Jersey, one of four children. His father was an engineer, his mother a teacher until her children came along. Kamps's parents, of Dutch descent, belonged to the Christian Reformed Church, and religion infused the family's lives. Kamps feels that his life is now somewhat less rigidly structured than his parents' lives were, but his religion is still very important to him, his wife, and their daughter. He explains how science and religion can coexist peacefully, in his opinion, and the impact of Christian values on his own research. All four children were expected to go to Calvin College, and all did. Kamps's sisters ended up working with computers before becoming homemakers, and he attempts to explain how that happened. He says he always had a natural aptitude for math and the sciences and an unsentimental interest in animals and nature and how they work. Liking both chemistry and biology, he had a double major; he decided to pursue an academic career in biochemistry. He found the quality of education at Calvin College outstanding. Two professors, Felix Rottman from Michigan State University, and Robert Albers influenced his choice of graduate school. Kamps began his graduate career at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). There he became interested in Bartholomew Sefton's work in avian retroviruses. He had always been fascinated by human disease, especially by how cancer develops. After rotations through the labs of Russell Doolittle, Bartholomew Sefton, and Jack Kyte, he entered the Sefton lab, where he identified the ATP-binding site of SRC and discovered that oncogenic tyrosine kinases and cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase have homologous ATP-binding sites. He published in Nature. Here Kamps talks about his love of bench work; his relationship with Sefton; the need for graduate students to learn how to design experiments and do long-term planning; about identifying targets for p60SRC kinase activity; about his collaboration with John Glenney; and about ethics in science. Kamps accepted a postdoc in David Baltimore's lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked on transcription factors. He describes Baltimore's lab and its method of operation. He talks about the cloning and sequencing of the first chimeric transcription factor gene, E2A; about identifying oncogenes and their function; about factors that contributed to Kamps's discovery of E2A-Pbx1; and about how the discovery of a new gene furthered Kamps's scientific career. Next Kamps accepted a position at UCSD. He describes his startup package and subsequent funding. He delves into how he remains competitive in a competitive research environment, as well as into the advantages and disadvantages of scientific competition. He treats his graduate students well and tries to impress upon them the importance of scientific pedigree in gaining a position in academia. He talks about his plans for future research involving E2A-Pbx1 and the relevance of biological model systems in understanding human disease. Kamps reasserts his fascination with learning the mechanisms of carcinogenesis. Kamps prefers basic research to clinical and believes that it is important to have a diversity of projects in a lab. He talks about funding in general at UCSD and about his own funding, specifically the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Science scholarship; the elements of an ideal research environment; gender issues in science; working with students in the lab; and the importance of advancing science literacy. He concludes his interview by explaining how he attempts to balance family life with life in the lab.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1981 Calvin College BS Chemistry and Biology
1987 University of California, San Diego PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

1987 to 1988
Postdoctoral Fellow

Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1988 to 1991
Postdoctoral Fellow

University of California, San Diego

1991 to 1997
Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology
1997
Associate Professor, Department of Pathology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1988 to 1991

Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fellow

1992 to 1996

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1997

Leukemia Society Scholar

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Upbringing in the Christian Reformed Church. Wife's religious background. Current religious beliefs. Daughter's future education. The compatibility of science and religion. Christian values and research. Childhood in New Jersey and Michigan. Parental expectations.

College Years and Reflections on Childhood
28

Aptitude for math and the sciences at Calvin College. First exposure to laboratory research. Childhood interest in animals and nature. More on parental expectations. Choosing a career in biochemistry. Influential professors. The quality of education at Calvin College. Decision to pursue an academic career.

Graduate School and Postdoctoral Years
43

Religious affiliations and activities in graduate school. Graduate coursework. Interest in Bartholomew M. Sefton's work in avian retroviruses. Reasons for wanting to study cancer. Rotations through the labs of Russell F. Doolittle, Bartholomew Sefton, and Jack E. Kyte. Enters the Sefton lab. Identifies the ATP-binding site of SRC. Discovers that oncogenic tyrosine kinases and cyclicAMP-dependent protein kinase have homologous ATP-binding sites. Publishes in Nature. Love of bench work. Identifying targets for p60SRC kinase activity. Collaboration with John R. Glenney Jr. Ethics in science. The advantages and disadvantages of scientific competition. The David Baltimore lab for postdoc. Work on transcription factors. Baltimore's lab and its method of operation. Cloning and sequencing of the first chimeric transcription factor gene, E2A. Identifying oncogenes and their function. Factors that contributed to discovery of E2A-Pbx1. How the discovery of a new gene furthered scientific career.

Faculty Years and Final Thoughts
90

Start-up package at UCSD and lab funding. The importance of scientific pedigree in gaining a position in academia. Future research involving E2A-Pbx1. Relevance of biological model systems in understanding human disease. Interest in understanding the mechanisms of carcinogenesis. Preference for basic researchover clinical. Funding at UCSD. Research with Francis C. White on vascular endothelial growth factor. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Working with students in the lab. Balancing family and career.

Index
130

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan