Jeffrey L. Noebels

Born: February 5, 1950 | New Brunswick, NJ, US

Jeffrey Noebels first planned to major in French literature at Reed College, but Mary Meikle’s class in physiological psychology captured his interest in brain function. He spent a year at University College London, which was then the epicenter of brain study. He decided to get both a PhD and an MD. He began graduate school at Stanford University, working on epilepsy with Timothy Pedley and David Prince. The American Epilepsy Society’s William G. Lennox Fellowship sent him to Harvard University for postdoctoral work, and then he began medical school at Yale University. While doing his neurology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, he won a Klingenstein Fellowship to work on epilepsy. Having completed his degrees, Noebels was recruited to Baylor, where he was offered a generous startup package and founded the Developmental Neruogenetics Laboratory.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0758
No. of pages: 32
Minutes: 140

Interview Sessions

Arnold Thackray and Frances Kohler
4 March 1991
Coronado, California

Abstract of Interview

Jeffrey Noebels was born in New Jersey, one of three children; the family then lived in southern California until they moved to Geneva, Switzerland, when Jeffrey was twelve. His father was a chemist at Beckman Instruments, Inc., and his mother a housewife. Noebels is now married, and he and his wife have two daughters.

Noebels at first planned to major in French literature at Reed College, but Mary Meikle’s class in physiological psychology captured his interest in brain function. He spent a year at University College London, which was then the epicenter of brain study. He decided to get both a PhD and an MD. He began with graduate school at Stanford University, working on epilepsy with Timothy Pedley and David Prince, who were both clinicians and researchers. The American Epilepsy Society’s William G. Lennox Fellowship sent him to Harvard University for postdoctoral work, and then he began medical school at Yale University, fully committed to the study of the brain. While doing his neurology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, he won a Klingenstein Fellowship to work on epilepsy. Having completed his degrees, Noebels was recruited to Baylor, where he was offered a generous startup package and founded the Developmental Neruogenetics Laboratory.

Noebels discusses the importance of sharing information in science. He acknowledges a tension between the need to publish often and finalizing bench work. He agrees that new technology has proved invaluable to neuroscience. He enjoys teaching. He believes we will never fully understand how the brain works.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1972 Reed College BA Physiological Psychology/Chemistry
1977 Stanford University School of Medicine PhD Neurological Science
1981 Yale University School of Medicine MD

Professional Experience

Harvard Medical School

1977 to 1978
William G. Lennox Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Neuropathology; Children's Hospital, Boston
1981 to 1982
Instructor in Neuropathology, Department of Neuropathology; Children's Hosptial, Boston
1982 to 1983
Clinical Intern in Medicine, Department of Medicine; New England Deaconess Hosptial
1983 to 1986
Clinical Fellow, Neurology; Mass. General Hosptial, Boston

Baylor College of Medicine

1986 to 1992
Assistant Professor, Neurology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1973

NIH Predoctoral Fellow

1975

Epilepsy Foundation of America Fellow

1975

Western EEG Society Research Award

1978

William G. Lennox Fellow

1981 to 1984

Klingenstein Fellow in Neuroscience

1982

National Research Council Award

1983

Diplomate, National Board of Medical Examiners

1985

Michael Prize of German Stiftung Michael

1987 to 1990

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Childhood in New Jersey, California, and Switzerland. Family. Religion. 

College and Graduate School Years
2

Reed College. Mary Meikle’s influence. University College London. Bernard Katz; Nobel Prize. Funding. Medical school and residency. Stanford University; Timothy Pedley and David Prince. Epilepsy lab.

Postdoctoral and Medical School Years
10

Lennox Fellowship. Richard Sidman’s lab at Harvard University. Medical School at Yale University. Klingenstein Fellowship Award in the Neurosciences at Baylor College of Medicine. Approaching tenure. Publications.

First Job
13

Went to Baylor. Lab management. Texas Medical Center. Career aspirations. Focus on academic neurology.

General Thoughts
20

Current state of the science fields. New technology in neuroscience. Work hardships. Likely legacy of his work.

Index
31

About the Interviewer

Arnold Thackray

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received MA and PhD degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.

Frances Kohler