Frank A. Laski

Born: June 13, 1956 | Detroit, MI, US

Frank A. Laski was born in Detroit, Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan, where he obtained a BS in general studies and worked in Ethel Noland Jackson's lab, becomin interested in recombinant DNA. Laski entered Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his Ph. D, where he worked in Phillip A. Sharp's lab. He took a postdoc in Gerald M. Rubin's lab at the University of California at Berkeley, working on the relationship between P elements and germline tissue. He then accepted an assistant professorship at the Department of Biology and at the Molecular Biology Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he remains today. His work encompasses bacteriophage packaging; transfer RNA; Drosophila ovaries; P elements; oogenesis; and genetic mutations in Drosophila. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0493
No. of pages: 106
Minutes: 501

Interview Sessions

Steven J. Novak
13, 19 and 26 May 1994
University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California

Abstract of Interview

Frank A. Laski was born in Detroit, Michigan; he grew up in Oak Park, a suburb of Detroit until about high-school age, when his family moved to Southfield, another suburb. His father's parents and sisters perished in a concentration camp in WWII; his mother's family in Berlin obtained false papers to survive the war. Laski's father and uncle survived the concentration camp and were sent to Louisville, where Laski's father met and married Eva Marx, who also had moved to Louisville after the war. Laski's parents and his uncle moved to Detroit, where they established a prosperous heating business. Laski has one older brother and a younger sister. He had a happy childhood and liked school. He attended a summer camp each year from an early age and eventually worked at the camp. He discovered in high school that he liked science. He attended the University of Michigan, where he obtained a BS in general studies, a major that allowed him to concentrate on science; he worked in Ethel Noland Jackson's lab as an undergraduate. He became very excited about recombinant DNA and knew that his future lay with genetics. Laski entered Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his PhD He worked there in Phillip A. Sharp's lab, where he learned to clone adenovirus; spliced introns; and eventually passed his oral exams. After receiving his PhD he took a postdoc in Gerald M. Rubin's lab at the University of California at Berkeley, working on the relationship between P elements and germline tissue. He then accepted an assistant professorship at the Department of Biology and at the Molecular Biology Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he remains today. His work encompasses bacteriophage packaging; transfer RNA; Drosophila ovaries; P elements; oogenesis; and genetic mutations in Drosophila. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1977 University of Michigan BGS
1983 Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD

Professional Experience

University of California, Berkeley

1984 to 1988
Postdoctoral Fellow

University of California, Los Angeles

1988 to 1995
Assistant Professor, Department of Biology and Molecular Biology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1984

Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Institutes of Health

1984 to 1987

Exxon Education Foundation Fellow of the Life Sciences
Research Foundation

1988 to 1993

National Institutes of Health Grant

1989

Career Development Award, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, Los Angeles

1993 to 1997

National Institutes of Health Grant

1990 to 1992

Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award Fellow of the
March of Dimes

1990 to 1994

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Born and grows up in suburb of Detroit, Michigan to parents who were survivors of Holocaust. One older brother, one younger sister. Father establishes his own business with Laski's uncle. After father's death, mother remarried Arnold Shay. Good public school education. Camp important during summers. Likes school;does well without trying until high school, when he buckles down.

Undergraduate Years
10

Attends University of Michigan, majoring in general studies. Spends spare time with friends from camp; loves Ann Arbor. Takes biology and loves it, particularly genetics. Likes factual work. Hears debate between Jonathan King and David Baltimore about the ethics of recombinant DNA. Takes a course on recombinant DNA. Majors in general studies to concentrate on science. Works in the Ethel Noland Jackson lab on bacteriophage P22 morphogenesis. Learns transduction procedures.

Graduate Years
22

Enters graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The MIT Program. Desire to switch to eukaryotic research. Works in the Phillip A. Sharp lab learning to clone adenovirus. Splicing introns. Passing oral examinations. Social life.

Life in the Lab
36

Debate over the potential hazards of working with recombinant DNA. How graduate students at MIT accepted to work in a lab. Learning to write scientific papers. Balancing the need for lab's productivity against graduate students' needs to complete their projects. Role of transfer RNA (tRNA) in translating nucleic acids into proteins. Stop codons and nonsense mutations. Necessity of producing nonlethal mutations. Use of nonsense-suppressing tRNA to create conditional-lethal mutations. Trying to mutate the anti-codon of a Xenopus tRNA gene.

Postgraduate Years
50

Takes postdoc with Gerald M. Rubin at the University of California at Berkeley to work on P elements. Rubin's lab management. Studies relationship between P elements and germline tissue--Roger E. Karess's work on P element transposase--Hypothesis that splicing of messenger RNA occurs only in germline tissue. Germline splicing regulation.

Faculty Years
61

Studying formation of the ovary in Drosophila--Maintaining the fly stock—The spread of P elements in wild fruit flies--Interest in germarium; how protein localization causes intracellular differentiation; homebox genes. Discovers the bric-á-brac gene; defects in bric-á-brac cause homeotic mutation in the fly. Further research on bric-á-brac. Competition and collaboration in Laski'spresent research--Getting articles accepted for publication. Plans to stay with Drosophila system--What Laski most likes and dislikes about being a principal investigator.

Index
103

About the Interviewer

Steven J. Novak