Karin M. Reinisch

Born: June 2, 1966 | Cambridge, MA, US

Karin M. Reinisch grew up in Massachusetts and attended Harvard University, where she majored in chemistry. She studied under Maitland Jones and George Whitesides and worked in the Whitesides lab. She stayed at Harvard for graduate school; there she worked on methyltransferase in William Lipscomb's lab. Reinisch's thesis research became a paper for Cell. Reinisch then accepted a postdoc in Stephen Harrison's lab, where she worked on her reovirus project and published a paper in Nature. From there she accepted a position at Yale University. Reinisch describes developing her own lab, recruiting postdocs, and her current projects, as well as ethics classes, cultural differences, the future of membrane trafficking, women in science, and science education. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0646
No. of pages: 80
Minutes: 206

Interview Sessions

Hilary Domush
10-11 November 2008
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Abstract of Interview

Karin M. Reinisch grew up in Massachusetts, one of two daughters. Her father was a physicist, a professor at University of Massachusetts; her mother was a housewife. Her parents were immigrants from Germany, and Reinisch spoke only German until she began school. She had always liked science and languages; she learned Spanish in high school and went on exchange trips to Mexico and Spain. When deciding on a career she considered medicine but chose science instead. Reinisch attended Harvard University, where she majored in chemistry, liking to solve problems, but not liking labs. She had Maitland Jones and George Whitesides as professors, both of whom she considered quite good; she worked in the Whitesides lab, where she became interested in structural biology. She stayed at Harvard for graduate school; there she worked on methyltransferase in William Lipscomb's lab. Reinisch's thesis research became a paper for Cell. Another important event at graduate school was meeting and marrying her future husband, a teaching assistant in one of her classes. After completing her PhD Reinisch accepted a postdoc in Stephen Harrison's lab, where she worked on her reovirus project and published a paper in Nature. From there she accepted a position in Yale University's cell biology department. At the end of the interview she describes developing her own lab, recruiting postdocs, and her current projects. She also discusses her use of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant money; the Mathers Foundation grant; and National Institutes of Health grants. Reinisch continues with an explanation of membrane trafficking; peptide-loading complex; and the importance of getting crystals with high diffraction resolution. She talks about the necessity for confidentiality regarding the lab's work (prior to publication); the Protein Data Bank; and her responsibilities to the scientific community, including attending seminars and conferences; grant-writing; reviewing papers; and teaching. She talks about ethics classes, cultural differences, the future of membrane trafficking, women in science, and science education. She concludes with a description of her husband's job and balancing work life and family life. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1989 Harvard University BA Chemistry
1995 Harvard University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

Harvard University

1995 to 2001
Post-Doctorate, Molecular and Cellular Biology

Yale University School of Medicine

2001 to 2007
Assistant Professor, Cell Biology
2007 to 2009
Associate Professor, Cell Biology

Honors

Year(s) Award
2002 to 2006

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Parents and sister. German as first language. Learning English in elementary school. Spanish in high school. High school exchange trips to Mexico and Spain. Early preference for and talent in science and languages. Thinking about medical school.

College Years
8

Matriculates into Harvard University. Majors in chemistry. Likes to solve problems, but does not like labs. Maitland Jones and George Whitesides as good professors. Worked in Whitesides' lab, where she discovered structural biology.

Graduate School Years
12

Stays at Harvard, where she works on methyltransferase in William Lipscomb's lab. Stephen Harrison's lab. Thesis becomes paper for Cell. Meets and marries future husband, a teaching assistant in one of her classes.

Postgraduate Years
23

Accepts postdoc in Stephen Harrison's lab; works on reovirus project. Compares Lipscomb's lab to Harrison's. Nature paper.

Yale Years
28

Describes job hunt. Accepts position in Yale University's cell biologydepartment. New chairman and new structure. Developing her own lab. Recruiting postdocs. Nuclear pore project. Use of Pew Scholars in the Biological Sciences grant money. Mathers Foundation grant. National Institutes of Health grants.

Current Work
67

Membrane trafficking; peptide-loading complex. Importance of getting crystals with high diffraction resolution. Necessity for confidentiality. Protein Data Bank. Attending seminars and conferences. Grant-writing. Reviewing papers; teachingresponsibilities. Ethics classes and cultural differences. Scientific community. Future of membrane trafficking. Women in science. Science education. Religion. Husband's job and balancing work life and family life.

Index
79

About the Interviewer

Hilary Domush

Hilary Domush was a Program Associate in the Center for Oral History at CHF from 2007–2015. Previously, she earned a BS in chemistry from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 2003.  She then completed an MS in chemistry and an MA in history of science both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her graduate work in the history of science focused on early nineteenth-century chemistry in the city of Edinburgh, while her work in the chemistry was in a total synthesis laboratory.  At CHF, she worked on projects such as the Pew Biomedical Scholars, Women in Chemistry, Atmospheric Science, and Catalysis.