Bradley B. Olwin

Born: January 15, 1957 | St. Paul, MN, US

Bradley B. Olwin was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and grew up on Los Alamos, New Mexico. There his father was an engineer who worked on nuclear testing sites. Olwin studied chemistry at the University of California at San Diego, where he worked in Stuart Brody's and Susan Taylor's lab. Olwin then attended the University of Washington, studying pharmacology. Working in Daniel R. Storm's labs, he used anisotropy to study calmodulin-binding interactions. Olwin accepted a postdoc at University of California, San Francisco in Zach Hall's lab, then at Stephen Hauschka's lab at University of Washington, where he stayed for three years. From there he accepted a professorship at Purdue. Olwin continues to work on the effects of fibroblast growth factor (FGF) on cell differentiation and regulation, cell de-differentiation, and signaling. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0488
No. of pages: 112
Minutes: 350

Interview Sessions

Steven J. Novak
30 November, 1-3 December 1994
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

Abstract of Interview

Bradley B. Olwin was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, but his family moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, when Olwin was an infant. There his father was an engineer who worked on the Poseidon Missile warhead and on nuclear testing at the test sites in Nevada; his mother was a housewife. Olwin has one younger brother, who now works as an engineer for the Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington. Olwin's family was a close one, engaging in outdoor weekend activities like skiing, water skiing, hiking, camping, backpacking. He still travels to the Cascade Mountains to climb, camp, and backpack. In high school he loved science but also studied Russian literature. Olwin matriculated at University of California at San Diego because he wanted to be an oceanographer; but he soon switched his major to chemistry, which he loved. He also kept up his Russian during college. While still an undergraduate Olwin worked in Stuart Brody's lab and in Susan Taylor's lab. Olwin applied and was accepted to the University of Washington, where he entered the pharmacology department. After rotations in Joseph A. Beavo's and Daniel R. Storm's labs, he joined the Storm lab. He found a mentor in his lab postdoc, David C. LaPorte; there he used anisotropy to study calmodulin-binding interactions. In his third year of graduate school Olwin and his first wife, whom he had married before he left San Diego, were divorced. Subsequently, Olwin met and married Jennifer Martin, who was also a student in pharmacology at the University of Washington. They have two children. Olwin accepted a postdoc at University of California at San Francisco in Zach Hall's lab, but because Jennifer was not able to transfer to San Francisco Olwin left Hall's lab after just one year and went to Stephen Hauschka's lab at University of Washington, where he stayed for three years. From there he accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Wisconsin. Because his wife could not get a job there eventually Olwin decided to accept a professorship at Purdue. There Jennifer also was offered a position, and there they remain today. Olwin continues to work on the effects of fibroblast growth factor (FGF) on cell differentiation and regulation, cell de-differentiation, and signaling. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1979 University of California, San Diego BA
1984 University of Washington PhD

Professional Experience

University of California, San Francisco

1984 to 1985
Postdoctoral Fellow

University of Washington

1985 to 1987
Postdoctoral Fellow

University of Wisconsin, Madison

1988 to 1993
Assistant Professor
1993
Associate Professor

Purdue University

1993 to 1995
Walther Associate Professor of Biochemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1983

Achievement Reward for College Scientists

1989 to 1993

Shaw Scholar

1990 to 1994

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1991

Pound Research Award, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Table of Contents

Family Background
1

Father's position at Los Alamos National Laboratories. Joys of outdoor recreation. Interest in science in high school. Competitive nature of contemporary science.

Undergraduate Years
10

Classes at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Work in the Stuart Brody lab and the Susan S. Taylor lab. Olwin's poor GRE scores. Interest in receptors and cellular communication. Inspiring professors at UCSD. Publications from his lab work.

Graduate Years
19

Rotations in the Joseph A. Beavo's, Daniel R. Storm's, and G. Stanley McKnight labs. Joins the Storm lab. Finds a mentor in lab postdoc David C. LaPorte. Uses fluorescence anisotropy to study calmodulin-binding interactions. Olwin's first marriage and his divorce. Outdoor recreation in the Seattle area. Second wife,Jennifer M. Martin.

Postdoc at UCSF
34

Begins postdoctoral work on muscle in the Zach W. Hall lab at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Unhappy at treatment of his wife, Olwin leaves after one year.

Postdoc at University of Washington
43

Begins research on fibroblast growth factor (FGF) in the Stephen D. Hauschka lab. FGF's role in cell growth and differentiation. Disproving the hypothesis that differentiated muscle cells' lack of response to FGF is caused by receptor loss. Why the cysteine-rich FGF receptor may be important--Helpful collaborations while a postdoc in the Hauschka lab. Applies for principal investigator positions.

Faculty Position at University of Washington
56

Olwin establishes his lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jennifer M. Martin's job search. Collaborative work with Alan C. Rapraeger. Finds that heparan sulfate may control FGF binding to the receptor. Collaboration with John F. Fallon on FGF as a limb outgrowth factor. Faculty attrition at the University of Wisconsin.

Faculty Position at Purdue
60

Both Olwin and his wife offered faculty positions at Purdue. Research on FGF and cell de-differentiation. More on the cysteine-rich receptor. Technical problems in the lab. Current projects in Olwin's lab--His work's relationship to the larger FGF and muscle fields--Clinical applications of his work. Universityteaching and administrative duties. Funding. Politics of publishing. Balancing home life and work.

Index
109

About the Interviewer

Steven J. Novak