Martin Latterich

Born: October 28, 1966 | Hamburg, DE

Martin Latterich was born in Hamburg, Germany. From a young age he was interested in his mother's work - she was a chemist - and spent much of his youth performing his own experiments and taking apart electronics. Latterich attended Durham University for undergrad, where he undertook a research project studying pathogenesis mechanisms and crown gall tumors. He also worked under John Boyle at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. He stayed at Durham for his graduate degree. After a postdoc, he accepted a position at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He then decided to move into industry, first working for Diversa Corporation and then for Illunina, Incorporated. Ultimately, he chose to return to academia, joining McGill University, researching membrane-fusion elements required for intracellular transport. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0579
No. of pages: 126
Minutes: 550

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
12-13 and 15 January 2004
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Abstract of Interview

Martin Latterich was born in Hamburg, Germany, though lived in Mönchengladbach, Germany until he left for college. His mother, a trained chemist who worked in quality control at a company that manufactured perfume, had a congenital kidney defect that required treatment, so Latterich spent a lot of time with his maternal grandmother, who was an accountant, and his maternal grandfather, who was an artist trained at Düsseldorf Art Academy and who started his own arts and graphics business. From a young age he was interested in his mother's work, like gas chromatography and atomic absorption spectroscopy, visiting her at her office often. With a proclivity towards science and technology, Latterich spent much of his youth performing his own experiments (with chemistry sets and the like) and taking apart pieces of electronics. In high school he entered and placed in the Jugend Forscht, a National Young Scientists Competition, with work on cadmium: he studied the toxicity of cadmium—when in ionic form compared to when taken up as an organometallic complex—in algae and in Daphnia (water fleas). Latterich chose to attend Durham University in the United Kingdom for his undergraduate degree, during which time he undertook an undergraduate research project studying pathogenesis mechanisms and crown gall tumors with Charles Shaw. For the summer after his second year at college he worked under John Boyle at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in Manchester, England on exonucleases: he wanted experience in mammalian-type cell biology/biochemistry, which he felt Durham could not offer (its strongest focus was in plant sciences). Latterich decided to stay at Durham for his graduate degree since he was interested in working with Martin Watson and on lysosome vacuole biogenesis. He met Randy W. Schekman and decided to go to his laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, as a postdoctoral fellow in order to research vesicular movements in intracellular transport. From there he accepted a position at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. After some time in the academy, he decided to move into industry to gain access to resources unavailable at a university, first working for Diversa Corporation and then for Illunina, Incorporated. Ultimately, though, he chose to return to academia and accepted a position at McGill University in Montreal, Québec, Canada, researching membrane-fusion elements required for intracellular transport. During the interview Latterich discusses his family life and his career, especially his wife and daughter; setting up his various labs; learning about the history of science; and the practical applications of Latterich's research. He also talks about his funding history; the process of writing journal articles; product development in industrial science; scientific collaborations between the academy and industry; and his role on scientific advisory boards. The interview concludes with Latterich's thoughts on the privatization of research; morality and scientific research; the role of the scientist in educating the public about science; science and religion; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in his work. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1989 University of Durham BSc Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
1992 University of Durham PhD Molecular Cell Biology

Professional Experience

Imperial Cancer Research Fund

1988
Laboratory Assistant,

University of California, Berkeley

1992 to 1995
Postdoctoral Fellow

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

1995 to 2000
Assistant Professor
2000 to 2003
Adjunct Professor

University of California, San Diego

1997 to 2000
Assistant Adjunct Professor

Diversa Corporation

2000 to 2001
Principal Scientist and Head of Proteomics

Illumina, Inc.

2001 to 2003
Director of Proteomics

Montreal Proteomics Network

2003 to 2005
Principal Investigator and Manager, New Technology Development

McGill University

2003 to 2005
Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1986

First and third prize in national young scientist competition, Jugend Forscht, Germany

1986

Verband der Chemischen Industrie book-prize for best chemistry student, Germany

1989

Best Graduate Student of the decade, Durham, United Kingdom

1990

NATO collaborative travel grant

1989 to 1992

Science and Engineering Research Council award

1995

American Cancer Society, California Division, Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship

1997

Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award

1998 to 2002

Pew Scholar Award in Biomedical Sciences

1999

Organizer and Chairman, Third International Conference on the Cell Biology of AAA proteins, La Jolla, California

2001 to 2005

Editor-in-chief, Preteome Science

2003

Tier I Canada Research Chair

2004 to 2005

Co-chair, Human Systems Biology Graduate Stream

2009

Organizer and Chairman, Eighth International AAA Meeting, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Table of Contents

Growing Up in Germany
1

Growing up in Mönchengladbach, Germany. Family background. Mother's career. Early interest in science. Influential biology teacher. Childhood experiences. Interest in reading. Creativity in science. Religion. Early schooling. German educational system. High school experiences.

College and Graduate School in the United Kingdom
23

Attends Durham University in England. Parental expectations. College experiences. Undergraduate project on crown gall tumors under Charles Shaw. Shaw's laboratory. Work with John Boyle at Christie Hospital for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Social life in college. Attends graduate school at Durham University working for Martin Watson. Watson's laboratorymanagement style. Doctoral work on lysosome vacuole biogenesis.

Postdoctoral Years and Becoming a Principal Investigator in the United States
36

Meets and works for Randy Schekman as a postdoctoral fellow. Postdoctoral research on vesicular movements in intracellular transport. Randy Schekman's laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. Schekman's mentoring style. Berkeley. Meets and marries future wife. Accepts a position at the Salk Institutefor Biological Studies. Wife and daughter. Setting up his lab. Learning about the history of science. Research on the membrane-fusion elements required for intracellular transport.

Laboratory Life and Industry
56

Practical applications of research. Teaching responsibilities. Administrative duties. Funding history. Writing journal articles. Laboratory management style. Professional duties. Balancing family and career. Leisure activities. Diversa Corporation. Setting up his laboratory at Diversa Corporation. Moves to Illunina, Incorporated. Role at Illumina. Decision to return to academia. Product development in industrial science. Accepts a position at McGill University.

Back to the Academy
80

Setting up laboratory at McGill University. Grant-writing process. Role in the lab. Tenure at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Tenure at McGill University. Teaching responsibilities. Travel commitments. Administrative duties. Typical workday. Patents. Scientific collaborations between academia and industry. Scientific advisory boards. Competition in science.

Thoughts About Science
112

Morality and scientific research. Role of the scientist in educating the public about science. Science and religion. Gender. Minority representation in science. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Mentoring.

Index
123

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten