Jeffery D. Molkentin

Born: January 15, 1967 | Milwaukee, WI, US

Jeffery D. Molkentin was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and attended Marquette University, where he discovered an interest in medicine. While in medical school, he realized being a doctor did not appeal to him, but the science of medicine did. He entered the laboratory of Lee Ann Baxter Lowe at the Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin, and completed his doctoral degree with Bruce E. Markham at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where his research focused on transcriptional regulation of the alpha-myosin heavy chain gene in heart muscle. Now at the University of Cincinnati, he has pursued research in developmental biology on the molecular genetic events in heart and skeletal muscle growth. He discusses goals for his laboratory and future research on the heart and heart disease. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0517
No. of pages: 109
Minutes: 400

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
15-16 March 2004
Cincinnati Children's Hospital

Abstract of Interview

Jeffery D. Molkentin was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the elder of two brothers. Molkentin's mother worked at Briggs & Stratton; his maternal grandfather and his stepfather (from whom he has his surname) played significant roles in his life. Molkentin had, according to his own account, a fairly typical childhood in Milwaukee. It was not until his freshman year of high school that he became very interested in his own education; it was then that he began to excel scholastically. Upon graduation Molkentin chose to attend Marquette University, where his interest in medicine led him down the pre-medical path, ultimately to the University of Wisconsin Medical School. While in medical school, though, he came to realize that the realities of being a doctor did not appeal to him, but that the science of medicine and scientific practice did. As a result, he entered the laboratory of Lee Ann Baxter Lowe at the Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin, and completed his doctoral degree with Bruce E. Markham at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where his research focused on transcriptional regulation of the alpha-myosin heavy chain gene in heart muscle. From there he moved on to a postdoctoral fellowship to study transcription mechanisms in myogenesis with Eric Olson at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. At the end of the interview Molkentin discusses his family and his attempts to balance his family with his career, especially with regard to accepting a position at the University of Cincinnati. There, he has pursued research in developmental biology on the molecular genetic events in heart and skeletal muscle growth. He discusses his goals for his laboratory, as well as his future research on the heart and heart disease. Additionally, he relates his thoughts on broad topics such as research collaborations between academia and industry, the impact of technology on research, creativity in science, and privatization of research, among other topics. Molkentin also talks about his laboratory in depth, including his management style, his criteria for prioritizing his research projects, and the gender make up of his lab. He concludes his interview by discussing the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award on his work, and other aspects of being a principal investigator. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1989 Marquette University BS
1994 Medical College of Wisconsin PhD

Professional Experience

Blood Center of Southeast Wisconsin

1988 to 1990
Laboratory Technician

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

1994 to 1997
Postdoctoral Fellow

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

1997 to 2002
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Graduate Faculty in Molecular and Developmental Biology, Department of Molecular Genetics, Department of Pharmacology, and Department of Cell Biology & Anatomy
2002 to 2005
Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Honors

Year(s) Award
1989

Graduated Magna Cum Laude, Marquette University

1992 to 1994

American Heart Association Pre-Doctoral Fellowship 

1994

Babush Graduate Research Award, Medical College of Wisconsin

1994 to 1997

NIH Postdoctoral Research Fellowship 

1998

P.D. Cain American Heart Research Award 

1998

Molecular Mechanisms of Disease award (C. Carrington Memorial Prize 

1999

Louis N. & Arnold M. Katz Award in Cardiovascular Medicine (AHA)

1998 to 2002

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

2002

Winner, AHA council of Basic Science Research Prize 

Table of Contents

Childhood
1

Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Family background. Brother. Mother. Childhood experiences. Early schooling.

College, Medical School, Graduate School, and Postdoctoral Years
14

Defining moment during freshman year of high school. Attends Marquette University. Parental expectations. Learns how to think and study while attending a Catholic high school. Decision to pursue medicine. Attends the University of Wisconsin Medical School. Reasons for leaving medical school. Religion. First research experience in Lee Ann Baxter-Lowe's laboratory at the Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin. Meets future wife. Attends graduate school at Medical College of Wisconsin in Bruce E. Markham's laboratory. Baxter--Lowe's management style. Markham's management style. Doctoral work in transcriptional regulation of the alpha-myosin heavy chain gene in heartmuscle. Postdoctoral fellowship under Eric N. Olson at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center. Olson's management style.

Family, Postdoctoral Research, and Becoming Faculty
43

Balancing family and career. Postdoctoral research on transcription mechanisms in myogenesis. Variety of management styles in science. Accepts a position at the University of Cincinnati. Setting up laboratory. Current research in developmental biology on the molecular genetic events in heart and skeletal muscle growth. Future research on the heart and heart disease. Research collaborations between academia and industry. Professional and personal goals. Funding history. Clinical applications. Teaching responsibilities. Administrative duties. Writing journal articles. Grant-writing process. Laboratory management style. Love of reading.

Laboratory Life and Reflections on Science
84

Being a principal investigator. Patents. Prioritizing his research projects. National scientific agenda. Role of the scientist in educating the public about science. Privatization of research. Gender. Percentage of women as graduate students and principal investigators. Competition and collaboration in science. Tenure at the University of Cincinnati. Foreign students as science graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.

Index
107

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten