Michael R. Koelle

Born: February 18, 1964 | Los Alamos, NM, US

Michael R. Koelle was raised in Seattle, Washington. His first laboratory experiences were during high school when he worked in the labs of Barbara L. and Stephen M. Schwartz at University of Washington. He attended University of Washington, then pursued his doctoral degree at Stanford University with David Hogness, working on hormonal controlled development and the ecdysone hormone receptor. Next, he undertook post-doctoral research on the genes involved in neural function and on the mechanics of neurotransmission with H. Robert Horvitz at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then accepted a position at Yale University, focusing his research on G protein signaling and regulation. His discusses the varied duties of an academic scientist, views on public understandings of science, his current research, and more.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0521
No. of pages: 120
Minutes: 450

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
6-8 January 2003
Yale University, School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut

Abstract of Interview

Michael R. Koelle was born in Los Alamos, New Mexico but was raised mainly in Seattle, Washington, the youngest of the family's three children. Both of his parents were German emigrants (his father as an infant, his mother during the 1930s). Koelle's father worked as an electrical engineer in Los Alamos until the age of fifty when he started his own business focused on electronic identification technologies; his mother raised the children on her own in Seattle while working as a special education teacher. Koelle's older brother, who studied medicine, encouraged Koelle to study science; Koelle was also very interested in pursuing music. His first laboratory experiences were during high school when he had the opportunity to work in the labs of Barbara L. and Stephen M. Schwartz at the University of Washington, Seattle. After completing high school he attended the University of Washington where he majored in biochemistry (after taking a course on recombinant DNA technology) and worked in Theodore Young's laboratory in his junior year. Deciding to continue his study of biochemistry, Koelle pursued his doctoral degree at Stanford University with David Hogness, working on hormonal controlled development and the ecdysone hormone receptor. Following the completion of his PhD , Koelle undertook post-doctoral research on the genes involved in neural function and on the mechanics of neurotransmission with H. Robert Horvitz at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then accepted a position at Yale University, focusing his research on G protein signaling and regulation and planning to expand his research on the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmission as a means of studying embryogenesis. Koelle spends much of the interview talking about the multiple duties of an academic scientist, like teaching, lab and research administration, mentoring, and participating in professional duties, and about his views on the practice of science in contemporary society, like, the issue of patenting intellectual property, the privatization of scientific research, competition and collaboration in science, the national scientific agenda, and educating the public. The interview ends with his thoughts on the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences and its role in his own research and scientific research generally.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1986 University of Washington BS Mathematics and Biology
1992 Stanford University PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1992 to 1996
Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory of Dr. H. Robert Horvitz

Yale University School of Medicine

1996 to 2001
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
2001 to 2005
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
2005
Tenured Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1986 to 1989

NSF Predoctoral Fellowship

1992 to 1995

Helen Hay Whitney Foundation postdoctoral fellowship

1995 to 1996

Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship, The Medical Foundation

1997 to 2001

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant

1999 to 2004

Leukemia Society Scholar

2001

Dylan Hixon '88 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Natural Sciences at Yale

Table of Contents

Childhood and Family Life
1

Family background. Parents. Siblings. Childhood experiences. Interest in music. Early interest in science. Mathematics courses during high school and college Reasons for pursuing a career in science. Creativity in science.

High School Research, College, and Graduate School
26

Works in Barbara L. Schwartz's and Stephen M. Schwartz's laboratories during high school. Attends the University of Washington. Works in E. Theodore Young's laboratory during his junior year. Influential teachers. Majors in biochemistry after taking a class in recombinant DNA technology. Knowing the evolution of ideas in a scientific field. College life. Attends Stanford Universityfor his doctoral studies. Graduate program at Stanford. Arthur Kornberg. Biochemistry department at Stanford. Chooses David S. Hogness's laboratory for his thesis project. Hogness laboratory. Doctoral work on hormonal-controlled development and the hormone receptor for ecdysone. Hogness's laboratory management style. Significance of Koelle's work.

Postdoctoral Work at MIT and Current Research
39

Religion. Postdoctoral fellowship in H. Robert Horvitz's laboratory atMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Horvitz's management style. A typical day in Horvitz's laboratory. Research on the genes involved in neural function and on the mechanics of neurotransmission. Broader applications of his work. Multimodal approach to problem solving. Broader applications of work. Currentresearch on G protein signaling and its regulation to study the mechanism of neurotransmission. Accepts a position at Yale University. Reasons for choosing to work at Yale. Setting up lab. Research grants. Meets his future wife.

Life Inside and Outside of the Lab
74

Parental expectations. Serendipity. Role in the lab. Teaching responsibilities. Travel commitments. Administrative duties. Funding history. Funding. Writing journal articles. Laboratory management style. Running his laboratory. Professional community. Tenure. Balancing family and career. Leisure activities. A typical workday. Success in achieving professional goals. Qualities of a good scientist. Future research on the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmission and of controlled cell division in embryogenesis. Patents. Intellectual property. Privatization of scientific research. Reasons for becoming a principal investigator.

Final Thoughts
99

Criteria for choosing research projects. Role of the scientist in educating the public about science. National scientific agenda. Gender. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.

Index
118

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten