Marilyn D. Resh

Born: August 15, 1955 | Brooklyn, NY, US

Marilyn Resh attended Princeton University and under the aegis of Meredithe Applebury she did her senior thesis on the effects of light on rhodopsin. Resh earned her PhD at Harvard University, working  on sodium-potassium ATPase in Guido Guidotti’s lab. Resh stayed at Harvard for postdoctoral work. Because the insulin receptor was becoming understood as a tyrosine kinase and possibly an oncogene, Resh switched fields into cancer research under Raymond Erikson. Resh’s project was studying membrane-binding properties. When she had finished her three-year grant and learned many new techniques from Erikson she took an assistant professorship at Princeton. She set up her lab with a technician and three students and stayed there for about four years. Resh is now at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Resh finds science fulfilling, exciting, flexible, demanding; but she also acknowledges publication and grant pressure; the need for a tough ego; science’s time-consuming nature. She likes the people and the cooperation in science. She discusses women in science, but refuses to accept gender as an excuse for failure.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0802
No. of pages: 44
Minutes: 140

Interview Sessions

Susan M. Lindee
20 June 1991
New York, New York

Abstract of Interview

Marilyn Resh grew up in what she calls a typical Long Island town. When she was in high school she discovered science, particularly chemistry, but continued her extensive violin playing throughout college and graduate school. She entered Princeton University because it provided an outstanding education and was undergraduate-oriented. Under the aegis of Meredithe Applebury she did her senior thesis on the effects of light on rhodopsin. This thesis and an intensive lab course convinced her that biochemistry was the right career for her.

Resh earned her PhD at Harvard University, working on sodium-potassium ATPase in Guido Guidotti’s lab. She had seven publications in graduate school. Resh stayed at Harvard for postdoctoral work. Because the insulin receptor was becoming understood as a tyrosine kinase and possibly an oncogene, Resh switched fields into cancer research under Raymond Erikson, who was the first to identify Src as an oncogene and a tyrosine kinase. Resh’s project was studying membrane-binding properties. When she had finished her three-year grant and learned many new techniques from Erikson she took an assistant professorship at Princeton. She set up her lab with a technician and three students and stayed there for about four years. Resh is now at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which has a much larger biomedical research community compared to Princeton. It provides a new lab in a new building, extensive institutional support, and access to many more scientists in all fields. She and her new husband love the cultural life of New York City, and Resh’s family lives nearby.

Resh considers herself one of the top researchers in Src oncogene. She says her niche is the membrane association of oncogenes; her specific problem is to find how Src gets to the membrane and why it is important for causing cancer. As technology has evolved, so has the subset of questions it is now possible to consider; she gives the example of her lab’s discovery of how protein myristoylation regulates Src association with the membrane.  

Resh finds science fulfilling, exciting, flexible, demanding; but she also acknowledges publication and grant pressure; the need for a tough ego; science’s time-consuming nature. She likes the people and the cooperation in science. She is said to practice “clean” science. She talks about funding in general and her own in particular. She discusses women in science, but refuses to accept gender as an excuse for failure. She tries to lead her students by example, hoping to show them that it is possible to combine work and family. She hopes that twenty years from now she will still be in the lab; perhaps will be the editor of a top journal or will be a top speaker or possibly chairman of a department.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1977 Princeton University AB Biochemistry
1983 Harvard University PhD Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Professional Experience

Harvard University

1983 to 1986
Postdoctoral Fellow, Biochemistry

Princeton University

1986 to 1992
Assistant Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1977

Associate member, Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society

1983 to 1986

NIH-NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship

1987 to 1991

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Violinist until high school. Likes chemistry. Decides on science career. Enters Princeton University. Parents happy, supportive, proud. Senior thesis on structural changes in rhodopsin when struck by light. Advisor is Meredithe Applebury. Likes working in lab. 

Graduate School Years
11

Harvard University for PhD. Guido Guidotti’s lab working on phosphate transfer; Resh interested in inside-outside communication. Work with postdoc Lewis Cantley on sodium-potassium ATPase. Publication in Nature. Relating sodium-potassium ATPase to insulin receptor. Pros and cons of animal rights groups’ positions. Seven publications in graduate school. Interest in projects that have possible human-health implications. Michael Forgac, Lewis Cantley, Karla Kirkegaard, George Church.

Postdoctoral Years
20

Insuln receptor understood as tyrosine kinase; possibly oncogene. Finds Src oncogene membrane-bound. Switches fields from diabete to cancer. Work with Raymond Erikson on Src as oncogene and tyrosine kinase. Advantages and disadvantages of career in science. Finishes three-year National Institutes of Health grant. Learns techniques from Erikson. 

Jobs
26

Accepts assistant professorship at Princeton. Setting up her lab. One technician and three students. Moves to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center four years later. Bigger institution. Hundreds of scientists, new building and equipment. Personal life. 

General Observations
31

Impact of work on Src oncogene. New techniques open new subsets of question. Technology driving space and vice versa. "Clean science." Likes people and openness of science. More competing now. Funding in general and differences between funding sources. Her own funding always good. Women in science. Leads by example. Thoughts on career in twenty years. 

Index
43

About the Interviewer

Susan M. Lindee