Thomas J. O'Dell
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Thomas J. O'Dell was born and raised in Berwick, Pennsylvania, a small, rural town (at the time, a population of approximately 11,000) on the edge of coalfields in the northeastern part of the state, the second oldest of four siblings. His mother was a homemaker; his father was a banker and, for a time, mayor of Berwick. O'Dell spent much of his youth like any other child; being in a rural area and having grandparents who lived on a farm allowed for a lot of exploration in nature; also, like most other children in the 1960s, he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up, though by high school he was starting to get more interested in psychology and behavior. He attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, located in Indiana, Pennsylvania, intent on being a psychology major, but then adding a natural sciences major as well. He became interested in neuroscience after reading an article on the brain and memory in Scientific American, and planned to go to graduate school for his doctoral degree. O'Dell matriculated at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, in part because of the financial package they were able to offer and, in part, due to scientists like Harold M. Pinsker, who used Aplysia to study the neuronal basis of behavior. He rotated through Ernest S. Barratt's laboratory, studying electrophysiology, but chose to perform his doctoral research on neurotransmitters in retinal neurons in Burgess N. Christensen's laboratory. After completing his degree he went to Bradley E. Alger's laboratory at the University of Maryland to work on calcium channels in hippocampal neurons, and undertook a second postdoctoral study in EricR. Kandel's laboratory at Columbia University in New York, New York, studying the cellular basis of memory formation and learning—specifically retrograde messengers in long-term potentiation and synaptic plasticity—and collaborating with Seth G. N. Grant, combining molecular biological approaches with physiological approaches to address research questions. At the end of O'Dell's postdoctoral fellowships, he accepted a position at the University of California, Los Angeles, working on beta-adrenergic receptors for norepinephrine and their role in synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. The interview ends with a discussion of O'Dell's role in the laboratory; his future research into the biochemical, physiological, and behavioral levels of synaptic plasticity and synaptic transmissions involved in learning and memory; the future direction of his field; and educating neuroscientists. O'Dell concludes with his thoughts on the grant-writing process; the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his work; balancing family life and career; collaboration and competition in science; the issue of patents; and teaching responsibilities.
|1983||Indiana University of Pennsylvania||BA||Psychology and Natural Science|
|1988||University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences||PhD||Neuroscience|
|1989||University of Maryland School of Medicine||MD|
|1993||Howard Hughes Medical Institute|
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine
George Sealy Research Award in Neurology
James E. Beall II Memorial Award in Anatomy and Neuroscience
National Research Service Award
Klingenstein Fellowship in the Neurosciences
Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant
Table of Contents
Family background. Siblings. Berwick, Pennsylvania. Religion. Parental expectations. Early schooling. Interest in psychology. Influential teachers. Extracurricular activities in high school.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Psychology and natural sciences major. Becomes interested in neuroscience after reading a Scientific American article about the brain. Decides to attend graduate school. The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Rotation in Ernest S. Barratt's laboratory doing electrophysiology. Doctoral research on neurotransmitters in retinal neurons inBurgess N. Christensen's laboratory. The graduate program at University of Texas Medical Branch.
Postdoctoral research in Bradley E. Alger's laboratory at the University of Maryland on calcium channels in hippocampal neurons. Bradley E. Alger's management style. Second postdoctoral fellowship in Eric R. Kandel's laboratory at Columbia University. Work in Kandel's laboratory studying the cellular basis of memory formation and learning. Unexpected experimental results. Collaboration with Seth G. N. Grant. Using molecular genetic approaches to study learning and memory. Work on retrograde messengers in long-term potentiation and synaptic plasticity. Accepts a position at UCLA. Current research on beta-adrenergic receptors for norepinephrine and their role in synaptic plasticity and learning and memory.
Future research into the biochemical, physiological, and behavioral levels of synaptic plasticity and synaptic transmissions involved in learning and memory. Educating neuroscientists. Setting up his lab. Writing journal articles. Competition in science. His wife and sons. His wife's career. Gender and ethnic issues in science. Grant-writing process. The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Patents. Teaching responsibilities.