Marilyn C. Pike

Born: May 19, 1951 | Oakridge, TN, US

Marilyn Pike grew up in Westchester, New York. Pike credits her high-school biology teacher for inspiring her career in science. She majored in zoology at Duke University but became interested in biochemistry in Irwin Fridovich’s class. After graduation Pike worked for three years as a technician in Ralph Snyderman’s lab, publishing several papers. She decided to go to graduate school, staying at Duke and continuing to work in Snyderman’s lab. There she began work with phospholipids, work that continues in her lab today. Pike attended medical school at Duke, finishing her MD in three years and moved to University of Michigan to complete her internship and residency. Pike found a job at Massachusetts General Hospital, with an assistant professorship at Harvard University.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0759
No. of pages: 55
Minutes: 175

Interview Sessions

Robert Kohler and Frances Kohler
6 June 1991
Massachusetts General Hosptial, Boston, Massachusetts

Abstract of Interview

Marilyn Pike grew up in Westchester, New York. Her father was a chemical engineer who was interested in desalination, even patenting a freeze-drying process for Maxwell House Coffee. Her mother was a housewife. Pike credits her high-school biology teacher for inspiring her career in science. She majored in zoology at Duke University but became interested in biochemistry in Irwin Fridovich’s class. After graduation Pike worked for three years as a technician in Ralph Snyderman’s lab, publishing several papers. She decided to go to graduate school, staying at Duke and continuing to work in Snyderman’s lab. There she began work with phospholipids, work that continues in her lab today.

When lab work became boring, Pike decided to go to medical school, again at Duke. She finished her MD in three years and moved to University of Michigan to complete her internship and residency. While there she married Richard Mulligan. He was at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, so Pike found a job at Massachusetts General Hospital, with an assistant professorship at Harvard University; her lab’s new work there concerns IL 8. Funding has become so difficult, however, that Pike feels she will probably look at other options, such as chief of medicine or consulting for a drug company.

Pike talks about her own perfectionism, her love of working with her hands, her need to control. She likes unambiguous results for experiments and likes doing graphics. She likes the congeniality and fun of small labs but thinks that they are a thing of the past, partly because of funding and partly because of the complexity of today’s science. She talks about politics in hospital administration and the increasing need for a businessman as chief executive officer, detailing some of what she thinks are Harvard’s mistakes in administration of funding. She concludes with some discussion of the problems facing women in academia.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1973 Duke University BA Zoology
1979 Duke University PhD Microbiology-Immunology
1984 Duke University MD

Professional Experience

Massachusetts General Hospital

1984 to 1986
Resident, Medical Services

University of Michigan Medical Center

1986 to 1992
Clinical Intern in Medicine

Honors

Year(s) Award
1977

National Science Foundation National Fellowship

1979

Jim McGinnis Award for Basic Research

1979

American Federation for Clinical Research, Southern Society, Student Research Award

1983

Alpha Omega Alpha

1984

American Medical Women's Achievement Citation

1987 to 1991

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences Award

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Grows up in Westchester, New York. Father chemical engineer, mother housewife. Father’s interest in desalination; patent on freeze-drying for Maxwell House Coffee. Ursuline Academy; New Rochelle High School. Influence of biology teacher Anne Schwerner.

College and Postgraduate Years
8

Attends Duke University. Zoology major. Irwin Fridovich’s biochemistry class. Considers medical school; no lab experience; women discouraged; expensive. Technician in Ralph Snyderman’s lab. Publishes. Collaborative and friendly group: Robert Lefkowitz, Rusty Williams, Nicholas Kredich. Learns technical skills from Christine Stahl.

Graduate School Years
14

Stays at Duke. National Science Foundation (NSF) funding. PhD projects and publications. Interest in lipid chemistry. Prefers more objective, less biological results as with receptor research. Perfectionist who likes working with her hands. Likes getting results with no ambiguity; likes doing graphics.

Medical School Years
26

Duke University School of Medicine. Finishes in three years. Enjoys clinical work. University of Michigan. William Kelley. Internship frustrations. Science fields microbiology and immunology, clinical field rheumatology. Good funding, congenial atmosphere. Joel Howell.

Moving to Massachusetts
34

Meets Richard Mulligan and marries. Mulligan at Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Pike accepts assistant professorship at Massachusetts General Hospital under John Potts. MD/PhDs in vogue. Harvard not easy place. Spacious lab but only four lab members. Thinks small labs no longer viable; funding going to big labs and big science. Currently working on phospholipids; new work on IL 8, therapies to interrupt inflammation in rheumatic diseases.

General Thoughts
37

Enjoys small labs over larger labs. Likes to keep control in collaborations. Describes “knockout” experiments. Drug companies’ funding at Massachusetts General Hospital. Politics in hospital administration. Necessary chief executive officer qualities. Problems faced by women in academics.

Index
54

About the Interviewer

Robert Kohler
Frances Kohler