Alfred T. Malouf

Born: May 1, 1953 | San Diego, CA, US

Alfred T. Malouf has always been curious about how things worked. At the University of California, San Diego, he took a class in pharmacology with Morton Printz and spent two years in Printz's lab. He then studied neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and entered Joseph Coyle's lab to work on kainic acid. Still fascinated by how things work, he accepted a postdoc with Floyd Bloom at Scripps Research Institute, where he learned physiology and electrophysiology. Next, he accepted a fellowship in Philip Schwartzkroin's lab at the University of Washington, studying the physiology of the hippocampus. Malouf now has his lab at Case Western Reserve University. He finds basic science exciting, but he also loves to see clinical relevance; he tries to balance intellectual pursuit with societal goals. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0564
No. of pages: 123
Minutes: 500

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
8-9 September 1997
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio

Abstract of Interview

Alfred T. Malouf was born into and grew up in an extended Lebanese family. His father originally owned a garage, but he switched to a restaurant. Both parents and grandparents were wonderful cooks, and Alfred loves to cook also. Unfortunately, Alfred's father's heart was bad, so he had to retire from the restaurant. Alfred and his brother had begun working there when they were very young, and during high school and college they were able to manage the restaurant for their father. Alfred's upbringing was strict Roman Catholic, and his grandfather had a large influence on their family; having gone only through fourth grade he placed a high value on education and took the grandchildren to dinner at Anthony's Fish House if one got A's in school. Alfred cannot remember when he was not curious about how things worked, and he loved to take things apart, particularly clocks. He also loved the water, especially scuba diving. He had good high-school science and mathematics teachers, but he did not think especially about college. His parents and grandfather thought science was the only legitimate discipline. He entered the University of California, San Diego, as a biology major. He was fascinated by how the brain works, and he took literature and philosophy classes as part of his desire to understand. During Alfred's first year his grandfather died, a very large blow that helped Alfred focus anew on science. He took a class in pharmacology with Morton Printz, a class he found "phenomenal," and spent two years in Printz's lab. He considered getting a PhD in winemaking, but decided to study neuroscience instead, calculating that he could make wine later in his life. (He intends to do so when he retires. ) When he investigated graduate schools he found the atmosphere at Johns Hopkins University special, so he entered Joseph Coyle's lab to work on kainic acid. Next he collaborated with Ronald L. Schnaar to learn tissue culture techniques; this was lucky as it turns out that Alfred is allergic to rodents. Coyle's medical training added a valuable "bench to bed" dimension to Alfred's research. Still fascinated by how things work—in this case living cells—he accepted a postdoc in Floyd Bloom's lab at Scripps Research Institute, where he learned physiology and electrophysiology. From there he accepted a research fellowship in Philip Schwartzkroin's lab at the University of Washington, studying the physiology of the hippocampus. There he met a pharmacology student, Stephanie Orellana, whom he eventually married and with whom he has two daughters. Stephanie worked for Ellis Avner, a pediatric nephrologist, until he left for Case Western Reserve University; Avner has since recruited both Maloufs to tenure-track associate professorships. Alfred has his lab set up now, and work is now going quite well. His proposal for the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences award included his study of GABAergic neurons and epileptiform activity and the effect of zinc on the GABA system. He has taken up optical imaging of CA3 pyramidal cells and has become interested in Alzheimer's disease. Alfred finds basic science exciting, but he also loves to see clinical relevance; he tries to balance intellectual pursuit with societal goals. He also has to balance lab management with teaching; and the work of two scientists with a family that includes two young daughters. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1975 University of California, San Diego BA Biology
1983 Johns Hopkins University PhD

Professional Experience

Scripps Research Institute

1983 to 1986
Research Fellow, Division of Preclinical Neuroscience and Endocrinology

University of Washington

1986 to 1988
Senior Research Fellow, Department of Neurological Surgery
1988 to 1989
Postdoctoral Research Associate
1989 to 1990
Research Assistant Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery
1990 to 1995
Assistant Professor
1995
Associate Professor

Case Western Reserve University

1995 to 1998
Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Honors

Year(s) Award
1984 to 1986

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Postdoctoral Training Grant

1989

American Epilepsy Society Young Investigator Travel Awardee

1991 to 1995

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Childhood in San Diego, California. Strict Roman Catholic upbringing. Roman Catholic schools. Work in father's restaurant from a young age. Grandfather's influence in the family. Love of taking things apart, especially clocks. Family's pressure to study science. Love of the ocean, especially scuba diving.

College Years
28

Admission to University of California, San Diego. Grandfather's death. Literature and philosophy as a means to understand the workings of the brain. Pharmacology with Morton Printz; working in his lab.

Graduate School Years
35

Discards idea of getting PhD in winemaking. Admission to Johns Hopkins University to study neuroscience. Enters Joseph Coyle's lab. Work with glutamate, kainic acid. Collaboration with Ronald Schnaar to learn tissue culture. Allergy to rodents. Homogeneous cell lines. Coyle's clinical perspective.

Postgraduate Years
87

Postdoc in Floyd Bloom's lab at Scripps Research Institute. Electrophysiology. Move to Philip Schwartzkroin's lab at the University of Washington, to study hippocampal slices. Methodical, systematic approach. Meets and marriesStephanie Orellana. Two years as postdoc, last year as senior postdoc, so he could write grants. Wife works for Ellis Avner. Births of two daughters.

Faculty Years
102

Avner's move to Case Western Reserve University, subsequent recruitment of the Maloufs. Continued work with GABA system; mossy fibers; optical imaging of slices. Zinc's effect on GABA beta. Funding. Scientists as "small business people". Lab management. Teaching. Balancing family and work. Tenure. Future of science.

Index
120

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan