Margaret C. Kielian

Born: December 16, 1952 | Omaha, NE, US
Photograph of Margaret C. Kielian

Margaret C. Kielian became interested in science at an early age while growing up in Omaha, Nebraska. She studied microbiology at the University of Nebraska. She considered Stanford and Rockefeller Universities for graduate school and was encouraged to attend Rockefeller, where she studied fusion of phagocytic vacuoles with lysosomes in the lab of Zanvil A. Cohn lab. She became increasingly interested in molecular biology. After a stint as a visiting scientist working on Semliki Forest virus at the University of Helsinki, she continued her postdoc position at Yale University. Kielian's research focus shifted to conformational changes in the spike protein. She isolated the mutant virus fus-1, which turned out to be a useful pH probe for work on endocytosis. Vigorously recruited by Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Kielian set up her lab there with funding from National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, and Pew Foundation. Kielian discusses her lab's work on fusion in the SFV spike protein; the role of cholesterol in SFV infection; and the representation of women on the Einstein faculty.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0510
No. of pages: 207
Minutes: 601

Interview Sessions

Neil D. Hathaway and Andrea R. Maestrejuan
20, 23, 30 June 1994 and 14 November 1996
Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Bronx, New York

Abstract of Interview

Margaret C. Kielian grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, the third of four children. Her father was an accountant with the Army Corps of Engineers; her mother was a homemaker. She became interested in science at an early age. She had a chemistry set that at one time caused an explosion, leaving a blob mark on the ceiling, and she had a fish tank that was a great source of protozoa that she liked to study under a microscope. Her parents were interested in and exposed her to many cultural things as well. Kielian attended Roman Catholic schools, where she found that she had some good teachers. Her physics and chemistry teacher and her biology teacher were very good, encouraging her curiosity and interest. Her family had hiking trips and picnics in national parks and forests, and these trips also stimulated her love of nature. A summer National Science Foundation program at the University of Kansas inspired her decision to become a microbiologist. She won a Betty Crocker scholarship which helped pay for college. Kielian attended the University of Nebraska, where she majored in microbiology. She considered Stanford and Rockefeller Universities for graduate school and was encouraged to attend Rockefeller. She worked in William Bowers' lab, then took a summer lab course at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. Kielian discusses having and raising children while pursuing a science career and the challenges facing two-career couples. She talks about Zanvil A. Cohn, her thesis adviser. As she studied fusion of phagocytic vacuoles with lysosomes in the Cohn lab she became increasingly interested in molecular biology; she learned fluorescence polarization technique. Next Kielian went to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and then the University of Helsinki as a visiting scientist to learn techniques for working with Semliki Forest virus (SFV). From Finland she went to Yale University for postdoc with Ari Helenius; there she worked with viruses with an altered pH threshold for fusion. Then Kielian's research focus shifted to conformational changes in the spike protein. She isolated the mutant virus fus-1, which turned out to be a useful pH probe for work on endocytosis. At that point Albert Einstein College of Medicine vigorously recruited Kielian. She set up her lab with funding from National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, and Pew Foundation. Kielian's interview continues with more discussion of her lab's work on fusion in the SFV spike protein; the role of cholesterol in SFV infection; her collaboration with Carolyn Machamer; keeping up with literature in the field; experiments that did not produce usable lab results; Marianne T. Marquardt's work on cholesterol-depleted cells in the exit pathway; and an unexpected finding in Kielian's work on virus assembly and fusion. Kielian points to her scientific role models and discusses the representation of women on the Einstein faculty. She concludes the interview by telling of her academic responsibilities.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1975 University of Nebraska-Lincoln BA Microbiology
1981 The Rockefeller University PhD Cell Biology

Professional Experience

University of Helsinki

1981
Visiting Scientist, Department of Virology

Yale University School of Medicine

1982 to 1984
Postdoctoral Fellow
1984 to 1986
Associate Research Scientist

Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University

1986 to 1992
Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology
1992
Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1975 to 1978

National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow

1979 to 1981

Haggerty Predoctoral Fellow

1981

Sigrid Juselius Foundation Fellowship

1982 to 1984

Anna Fuller Postdoctoral Fellowship

1984 to 1986

Swebelius Cancer Research Award

1988 to 1991

American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award

1988 to 1992

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences

1992 to 1997

Hirschl/Weill-Caulier Career Scientist Award

Table of Contents

Childhood, High School, and College
1

Family background. Childhood interest in microscopy and chemistry. Early desire to be a scientist. High school courses and science training. Family trips to national parks and forests. Attends a summer National Science Foundation program at the University of Kansas. College courses at University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Deciding which college to attend. Wins a Betty Crocker college scholarship. Background in mathematics. Majors in microbiology. Considers Stanford and Rockefeller Universities for graduate training.

Applying to and Attending Graduate School
43

Competitive atmosphere at Rockefeller. Involvement in the anti-Vietnam War effort in high school. Microbiology department at the University of Nebraska. Encouragement to attend Rockefeller. Graduate school application process. Social life in college. Meets future husband, Edwin Charles Bullock. Raising children while pursuing a science career. Challenges facing two-career couples. Working in labs as an undergraduate. Works in the William E. Bowers lab. Summer lab course at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. Zanvil A. Cohn becomes Kielian's adviser. Membrane traffic and endocytosis work.

Graduate School to Postdoctoral Work
82

Progression from graduate to postdoctoral work. Cohn's mentoring style. Studies Fusion of phagocytic vacuoles with lysosomes in the Cohn lab. Becomes increasingly interested in molecular biology. Learns fluorescence polarization technique. Defends thesis at Rockefeller University. Semliki Forest virus (SFV) at the University of Helsinki. Finnish life. Postdocs in the Helenius lab at Yale University. Working with viruses with an altered pH threshold for fusion. Don C. Wiley's work on membrane protein structure. Complexity of HIV fusion reaction. Selecting for liposomes that could fuse at low pH's. Conformational changes in the spike protein. Henrik Garoff's work on SFV. Isolates the mutant virus fus-1. Fus-1 as a useful pH probe for work on endocytosis. How the exit pathway of SFV utilizes cholesterol. Studying fusion protein at low pH in SFV. Collaboration with Carolyn E. Machamer.

Faculty Years
133

Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Cross-fertilization between departments at Einstein. Supportive faculty and administration. Pressures of living in New York. Interactions with colleagues at other institutions. Graduate students. National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, and Pew scholar grant money. Pew meetings. SFV spike protein. Role of cholesterol in SFV infection. Marianne T. Marquardt's work on cholesterol-depleted cells in the exit pathway. Unexpected finding in work on virus assembly and fusion. Uses an insect cell system to approach the study of cholesterol depletion.

Reflections and Science and its Practice
164

Need for structural information about virus fusion protein. Representation of women on the Einstein faculty. Tenure system. Logistics of family life. Principal investigator's responsibility to motivate lab personnel. Parenting philosophy. Scientific role models. Women in science. Academic responsibilities.

Index
203

About the Interviewer

Neil D. Hathaway
Andrea R. Maestrejuan