Rory M. Marks

Born: March 1952 | Sydney, AU

Rory M. Marks was born in Sydney, Australia. He was always interested in how things work, and once took apart the garbage disposal to better understand it. Marks attended the University of New South Wales, then entered medical school. After his third year he did an optional year of research, working with T-cell immunity to salmonella in rats; after three or four years in the same lab he chose vascular biology for his field. After an internship in Australia, Marks decided science was best in the United States, and went to the University of Michigan, working in Peter Ward's lab on oxygen-deprived free radicals in vascular tissue damage. He is still at the University of Michigan, where he continues to study tropical diseases and their vascular implications. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0563
No. of pages: 92
Minutes: 450

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
5-7 November 1997
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Abstract of Interview

Rory M. Marks was born in Sydney, Australia, the elder of two brothers. His parents had met in the Royal Australian Air Force, during World War II; there his father was an aircraft engineer and his mother a radio operator, but the senior Marks went into the fish business when he left the service. The family lived near the Sydney harbor, and the boys spent as much time as possible at the beach. Rory and his brother attended a rigorous Anglican school where grades were extremely important. Rory was always interested in how things work, in the elegance of mathematical explanations and the creativity of science. He thought that differential calculus was the most beautiful thing. He also liked to take things apart (and he still does). He took apart the garbage disposal to see how it worked; soon there was garbage all around the foundations of the house, as he had not put the disposal back together correctly. It was customary to attend college where one lived, so Rory went to the University of New South Wales and lived at home. Unaware that science did not have to mean medicine, he entered the medical school. Classes were large lecture classes, often on video. After his third year he did an optional year of research, working with T-cell immunity to salmonella in rats; he liked his mentors and the other students. He liked the clinical work and liked his boss, Ronald Penny, who was a very good clinician. During Christmas break he went to England, to Ian Clark's lab, then back to med school with Penny; after three or four years in the same lab he chose vascular biology for his field and wanted to go overseas. He went to Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, to Judah Folkman's lab and learned to grow blood vessel wall cells; then it was back to Australia. Next, he went to Griffith, Australia, a rural area, for his internship, then, no longer satisfied with his work in Penny's lab, he worked with Michael Berndt at a different hospital. Rory decided that science was best done in the United States, so he took a scholarship to the University of Michigan, working in Peter Ward's lab on oxygen-deprived free radicals in vascular tissue damage. He attended a summer class in molecular biology at Smith College, where he was impressed by a talk given by Vishva Dixit, with whom he now works closely. He grew cells for Dixit, working on complement system. He met Faye Silverstein, who is now his wife. For that reason and because science is better in the United States, he did not want to return to Australia. He is still at the University of Michigan, where he had a breakthrough in his vascular complement fixation (VCF) work after nine years. He continues his interest in tropical diseases and their vascular implications. His wife is also a physician-scientist, a pediatric neurologist, and they are working together on a project concerning angiogenesis. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1973 University of New South Wales BSc
1976 University of New South Wales MB

Professional Experience

Saint Vincent's Hospital

1977
Intern
1978
Resident Medical Officer
1981
Clinical Immunology Registrar

Royal Newcastle Hospital

1979
Medical Registrar

Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

1980
Medical Registrar

University of New South Wales

1982 to 1986
Fellow in Medicine

University of Michigan

1987 to 1989
Postdoctoral Fellow in Pathology
1990 to 1997
Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine
1998
Associate Professor

University Hospital

1990 to 1998
Attending Physician

Ann Arbor Veterans Administration Hospital

1997 to 1998
Attending Physician

Honors

Year(s) Award
1973

National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, Undergraduate Medical Research Scholarship

1982

Medical Postgraduate Scholarship

1987

Neil Hamilton Fairley Overseas Travelling Fellowship

1986

Royal Australasian College of Physicians D. E. V. Starr Overseas Research Fellowship

1991 to 1995

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Born and grew up in Sydney, Australia. Parents in fish business. One younger brother. Anglican school very rigorous. Bar mitzvah because he had to, but not religious. Always interested in how things work. Liked to take things apart: lamps, plumbing, etc.

College Years
24

Went to local medical school, University of New South Wales. Large lecture classes, often on video. Liked science but did not know of any practical application except medicine or teaching. Took optional year for elective research. Introduced to immunology. Vacation time in Ian Clark's lab in England. Clinical work under Ronald Penny at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney.

Fellowship Years
35

Fellowship in medicine at University of New South Wales. Mother dies. Father's macular degeneration forces Rory to stay in same lab. Autoimmune diseases become his focus. Allergies also interest him. Finally settles on vascular biology as his field. Worked on cell biology with Michael Berndt at Westmead Hospital.

Postdoctoral Years
44

Accepts postdoc at University of Michigan. Works on oxygen-deprived free radicals in damaged tissue, especially vascular tissue, in Peter Ward's lab. Summer class in molecular biology at Smith College. Meets Vishva Dixit; grows cells for him. Meets future wife, also physician-scientist, and decides to stay in United States.

Faculty Years
54

Accepts assistant professorship in department of rheumatology. Takes project with him from Ward's lab. Works on vascular complement fixation (VCF) for nine years for breakthrough.

General Thoughts
64

Interest in tropical diseases. Vascular implications. Transition from Australia to United States. Comparison of science, clinical practice, and technology. Mentoring. Lab management and composition. Funding. Publishing. Balancing good science with expediency. Patents. Competition and collaboration.

Index
89

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan