The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Caroline F. Kisker grew up in West Berlin, West Germany, where she attended the John F. Kennedy German-American grammar school. After completing her Abitur, Kisker planned to study medicine, but due to the complicated university placement lottery system Kisker was not able to matriculate at a university. In the interim, while working as a medical apprentice, she decided to pursue biochemistry at the Freie Universität in Berlin. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Kisker witnessed an influx of East German students to West Berlin and the universities there. She joined the large laboratory of Wolfram Saenger and throughout the course of her Diplom and PhD , Kisker had the opportunity to conduct laboratory work in Zürich, Switzerland, and Frankfurt, Germany, with Nobel Laureate Hartmut Michel. Her doctoral thesis centered on the determination of medically relevant tetracycline repressor protein, the results of which she published in Science. While working in the Saenger laboratory, Kisker met her husband Hermann Schindelin. After completing their doctorates, they both pursued postdoctoral research in Douglas C. Rees's laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). At Caltech, Kisker solved the sulfite oxidase structure and published it in Cell. At the end of her time as a postdoctoral fellow, Kisker accepted a position as a faculty member at State University of New York, Stony Brook. In 2000 Kisker received the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award and in 2006 she moved to the Rudolf Virchow Center at the University of Würzburg, in Germany. She continues her research on structure-based drug design and DNA repair through the tools of structural biology. Throughout her oral history Kisker discusses the differences between the German and American educational and scientific systems and many of the challenges associated with being a woman in science, especially having to balance work with family life during the transition from Stony Brook back to Germany. Kisker also talks about the ways in which structural biology has changed throughout her career in response to new technologies and the ways in which funding affects her research and research choices.
California Institute of Technology
State University of New York at Stony Brook
Rudolf Virchow Center
Karl Ramsauer Award for PhD Thesis
|1995 to 1997||
Postdoctoral Fellowship Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
|1998 to 1999||
Targeted Research Opportunity Award SUNY Stony Brook
Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
Table of Contents
Growing up in the enclosed city of West Berlin, West Germany. Grammar school at the John F. Kennedy German-American school in both German and English. Interest in medicine and decision to study biochemistry. Abitur and University lottery. Biochemistry at the Freie Universität. Differences between the American and German education systems. Interest in gymnastics. Trends regarding women in science.
Biochemistry studies at the Freie Universität with Wolfram Saenger. Interest in macromolecular crystallography. Meeting husband Hermann Schindelin. Working in laboratories in Zürich, Switzerland and Frankfurt, Germany.
Postdoctoral positions in the United States;. Two-body problem. Path to professorship in Germany; and Habilitation. Max Planck Institutes. Funding. University system in Germany.
Fall of the Berlin Wall. Influx of East German students. Resources available to West and East German scientists. Travel to East Berlin.
Structure of Tetracycline Repressor Complex. Publication in Science. Crystallization and structure determination. Synchrotron in Hamburg, Germany; Synchrotron technology. Laboratory management.
California Institute of Technology. Douglas C. Rees. Collaboration with Amgen. Gamma carbonic anyhydrase from an archaeon. Sulfite oxidase structure published in Cell. Rees's management style. Advances in computing and crystallography,
Looking for faculty positions. Decision to stay in the United States;. Difficulty of finding students. Management style. Interest in protein-DNA interactions.
Research on DNA repair. Familiarity with Pew. Annual Meetings. Costa Rica. Visa problems. Importance of bringing along the family. Interacting with people outside of structural biology. Publishing with Sylvie Doublié.
Applying for National Institutes of Health grants. Department of Energy funds. Problems associated with needing preliminary data in crystallography. Reviewing grants with Hermann.
Decision to move back to Germany. Martin Lohse. Transitioning graduate students between Stony Brook and Würzburg. Difficulty of moving with school-age children.
Moving beyond structure determination. Biochemistry. Structure based drug design. Sharing data and material. Competition.
Balancing life and work. Sharing responsibilities. Research collaborations with Hermann. Science education. Rudi's Forschercamp. Undergraduate education. Problem solving.