Michael J. Overduin

Born: April 4, 1967 | Welland, ON, CA

Michael J. Overduin was born in Ontario, Canada, and studied biology at Wilfrid Laurier University, completing a thesis with Bernard Glick on the transformation of Pseudomonas aeroginosa and Esherichia coli by electroporation. He attended Rockefeller University for graduate studies in structural biology, working with David Cowburn and using nuclear magnetic resonance to determine the structure of a signal transduction protein. After a postdoc, he accepted a position at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and began to research domain structure of receptors involved in endocytosis. He also assisted in establishing an NMR spectroscopy facility and biomolecular structure program while there. After several years, he moved to University of Birmingham, helping build the NMR spectroscopy facility and continuing research on complex systems and protein domains of therapeutic targets. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0516
No. of pages: 70
Minutes: 300

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
8-9 February 2005
University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom

Abstract of Interview

Michael J. Overduin was born in Ontario, Canada, the second oldest of five children. Overduin's father received master's degrees in English and music and was a teacher who traveled around Ontario to develop new programs at various schools—in music, English, and theater; in addition, he was well-respected in musical communities, especially those associated with churches, he put out several CDs, and, later in life, became a professor (without a PhD). Overduin's mother was a teacher as well, before having her children, and musically inclined too—classical music was a mainstay of the Overduin household. As a child Overduin was interested in music (though never performed) and art, and he appreciated the creativity of science. His interests and his parents' belief in education cultivated his love of biology and nature; influential teachers in school and early laboratory experiences proved formative as well. Overduin matriculated at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada and pursued a major in biology and a minor in mathematics. While in college he completed a thesis with Bernard Glick on the transformation of Pseudomonas aeroginosa and Esherichia coli by electroporation. After receiving his baccalaureate of science, he chose to attend Rockefeller University for graduate studies in structural biology, working in the laboratory of David Cowburn. Overduin's graduate work used nuclear magnetic resonance to determine the structure of a signal transduction protein; additionally, he worked with David Baltimore. For his postdoctoral fellowship, he worked with Mitsuhiko Ikuraat the University of Toronto and focused on the structural protein cadherin and its involvement in cell adhesion. After his time in Toronto, he accepted a position at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and began research on the domain structure of receptors involved in endocytosis. He also assisted in establishing an NMR spectroscopy facility and biomolecular structure program while there. After several years at Colorado, he moved to the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, helping build the NMR spectroscopy facility there, and continuing his research on complex systems and protein domains of therapeutic targets. The interview concludes with Overduin's thoughts on his laboratory management style; the process of writing journal articles; the issue of patents; the role of the scientist in educating the public about science; setting the national science agenda; recruiting foreign students as science graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the United States; and balancing his career and time with his family. Overduin's oral history ends with his reflections on the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his research and what he likes most about being a principal investigator. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1988 Wilfrid Laurier University BSc Honours Biology with Mathematics Minor
1993 The Rockefeller University PhD Biochemistry, Genetics, and Physical Chemistry

Professional Experience

University of Toronto

1993 to 1995
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Medical Biophysics

University of Colorado, Health Sciences Center

1995 to 2002
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology
2002 to 2003
Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology

University of Birmingham

2004 to 2005
Professor, Cancer Research UK Institute for Cancer Studies

Honors

Year(s) Award
1988

Gold Medal for Highest Achievement, Dept. of Biology, Wilfrid Laurier University 

1993 to 1995

National Cancer Institute of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship Award

1995

Alumnus of the Year, Wilfrid Laurier University 

1997 to 1998

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Pilot Project Award

1998 to 1999

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Junior Faculty Startup Award 

1998 to 2000

Basil O'Conner Award, March of Dimes 

1998 to 2002

Pew Scholar, Pew Charitable Trusts

1998 to 2003

FIRST Award, National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute

2001

Faculty Excellence in Research Award, Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado Health Scienes Center 

2003

Chair of Structural Biology, University of Birmingham 

Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award

Table of Contents

Childhood, College, and Graduate School
1

Family background. Parents. Religion. Siblings. Childhood experiences. Qualities of a good scientist. Reasons for becoming a principal investigator. Interests as a boy and man. Early schooling. School projects. Interest in art. Creativity in science. Attends middle and high school. Influential high-school teacher. Competition in science. Attends Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. Social life in school. Laboratory experience in high schooland college. Reasons for pursuing science. Extracurricular activities. Attends graduate school at Rockefeller University. New York City. Graduate program at Rockefeller University. Works in structural biology under David Cowburn using nuclear magnetic resonance to determine the structure of a signal transduction protein.

David Cowburn, David Baltimore, Postdoctoral Work, and Becoming Faculty
24

David Cowburn's management style. Work with David Baltimore. Criteria for developing new projects. Collaboration in science. Postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto. Meets future wife. Works in Mitsuhiko Ikura' s laboratory at the University of Toronto. Ikura' s management style. Postdoctoral work on the structural protein cadherin and its involvement in cell adhesion. Laboratory management style. Accepts a position at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Setting up lab. Research in structural biology and biochemistry at the University of Colorado on the domain structure of receptors involved in endocytosis. Moves to the University of Birmingham England. Building the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy facility at Birmingham. Managing an NMR facility. Current research in studying complex systems and protein domains of therapeutic targets. Future research on the mechanism of action of membrane proteins. Scientific collaborations between academia and industry. Tenure at University of Colorado. Teachingresponsibilities. Professional duties.

Scientific Life
47

Administrative duties. Source of ideas. Writing journal articles. Patents. Funding history. Role of the scientist in educating the public about science. National science agenda. Gender. Underrepresented groups in science. Recruiting foreign students as science graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the United States. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.

Index
68

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten