Scott W. Rogers

Born: December 31, 1955 | Ogden, UT, US

Scott W. Rogers was born in Ogden, Utah. As a child, he participated in science fairs, attended the National Youth Science Camps, and spent summers working in national parks. He matriculated at Utah State to study botany, but soon found it boring, wanting to be "more active in the discovery process." Though delayed by family difficulties, he entered University of Utah to study human genetics. In Martin Rechsteiner's cell biology lab, he set out to show that protein degradation could occur outside lysosome and could be selective, and discovered PEST sequences. He took a postdoc at the Salk Institute, working on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. He set up his lab at the University of Colorado Health Science Center, but soon took a position at the University of Utah. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0539
No. of pages: 154
Minutes: 500

Interview Sessions

Helene L. Cohen
19-21 June 2000
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

Abstract of Interview

Scott W. Rogers was born and grew up in Ogden, Utah. His father, a meat inspector, and his mother, a housewife, were divorced when Scott was about six years old; his father left the state, and Scott lived with his mother. They belonged to the Presbyterian church, an unusual circumstance in Mormon Ogden, and both felt stigmatized and ostracized, at least to some degree. Scott has always loved science; in fact, he feels that he was "born with" that love. He was lucky enough to have good science teachers throughout his school years; he took every possible class, even persuading the junior high school authorities that science was a religion, and that those non-Mormons who did not attend the Mormon class each day should be allowed to study their own "religion," science, during that period. He participated in science fairs, and attended the National Youth Science Camps; at the international science fair he took second place and was offered a job by the USDA botany labs. He persuaded them to change the venue to the Forest Service, and he spent summers working in nearby national parks. He matriculated at Utah State, intending to study botany. He soon found botany boring and, wanting to be "more active in the discovery process" of science, sped up his education to finish in three years. By that time he had become interested in Drosophila genetics, and his mother had been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. In order to be able to care for his mother Scott decided to do a master's degree at Utah State, working in Eldon Gardner's lab. He finished that degree in a year; his mother died soon after his graduation, and his grandmother and a number of other relatives soon after that. He had intended to pursue a PhD at the University of Michigan that fall, but he gave up those plans and spent a year working as a technician at Utah State. His personal life more settled by then, he entered University of Utah to study human genetics. He found the program not to be on the cutting edge ("Henry Ford" genetics, as he calls it), and went into Martin Rechsteiner's cell biology lab. There he set out to show that protein degradation could occur outside lysosome and could be selective. Rogers there discovered PEST sequences, important to cell regulation. From his master's thesis he got four papers. As he was considering California Institute of Technology and Harvard University for a postdoc, he was introduced to Lorise Gahring, an immunologist who was considering the very same labs. They liked each other immediately and were married six months later. Meanwhile, their original choices for postdocs did not work out, and Lorise took a postdoc at Scripps Research Institute. Scott found one at the Salk Institutes for Biological Studies, working on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in Stephen Heinemann's lab. When Michael Hollmann cloned glutamate receptors Rogers began working on both receptors, making antibodies. Often Scott and Lorise worked together, approaching the same problem from their different perspectives. After about six years they began searching for jobs, wanting tenure-track positions at the same school. They ended up at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado. While they were there Scott, even though his lab took about a year to get set up, and Peter Ian Andrews discovered that Rasmussen's encephalitis, until then treatable only by removable of a hemisphere of the brain, could be treated as an autoimmune disease, by neutralizing the sufferer's antibodies. While the Rogerses were at a Neuroscience meeting in California, the entire lab burned down, but at least Scott's serums were preserved in the freezer. This seemed an omen, and the Rogerses left for University of Utah, to take positions at the Veterans Health Administration, in the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics, where in their separate disciplines they studied aging and the immune system, nicotine addiction, etc. For genetic studies Utah's closed and well-documented Mormon society is ideal. For fun, the Rogerses and their dog go fossil-hunting (a hobby that had to be curtailed when Scott published a paper on an Allosaurus endocast, as the avocation was becoming a vocation) in the Great Basin or Moab or other areas nearby. Scott feels he has met his professional and personal goals; that science offers great "freedom of imagination"; that if it were not for having to write grants, he would be like "a kid in a candy store."


Year Institution Degree Discipline
Utah State University BS
1979 Utah State University MS
1986 University of Utah PhD

Professional Experience

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

1986 to 1991
Postdoctoral Fellow

University of Colorado, Health Sciences Center

1991 to 1993
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology

University of Utah

1993 to 2001
Assistant Professor, Department of Neurobiology


Year(s) Award

Klingenstein Fellow

1991 to 1995

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years

Family background. Happy childhood. "Genetic" love of science. Mormonism. Good teachers throughout school. Entering every possible science fair. Attending science camps. Winning second place in an international science fair. Job offer from USDA.

College Years

Matriculates at Utah State University, majoring in botany. Growing bored. Finishes in three years. Spends summers working for U. S. Forest Service. Becomes interested in Drosophila genetics.

Early Graduate Years

Mother diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Rogers lives at home to care for her. Decides to get master's degree in genetics at Utah State University. Mother dies; grandmother and other relatives die. Rogers spends a year as technician at Utah State.

Resumption of Graduate Studies

Begins PhD studies in human genetics at University of Utah. Bored again. Moves to Martin Rechsteiner's lab. Fails preliminary exams first time. Eventually passes and gets four papers from his dissertation. Discovers PEST sequences, important to selective protein degradation and cell regulation.

Postdoctoral Years

Considers Harvard University and California Institute of Technology. Meets and soon marries Lorise Gahring, an immunologist looking for postdoc in same labs. Lorise goes to Scripps Research Institute; Rogers finds postdoc at Salk Institute for Biological Studies, working in Stephen Heinemann's lab, studyingnicotinic acetylcholine.

First Jobs

Rogerses take positions at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. Scott has no lab for a year, but still discovers alternative treatment for Rasmussen's encephalitis. Entire lab burns down while Rogerses are away. Scott's frozen reagents luckily saved.

Back to Utah

Both Rogerses accept tenure-track positions at University of Utah, mostly paid by Veterans Health Administration. Grant-writing. Diversity of students and faculty. Public outreach. Tenure. Publishing. Keeping up with science. Ethics in science. Patents. Competition and collaboration. Professional and personal goals.

Vocational Avocation

Fossil-hunting around state. Dinosaurs in Great Basin. Using spiral CT scanner to study endocast of Allosaurus brain. Publishing in Neuron. Teaching comparative neuroanatomy.


About the Interviewer

Helene L. Cohen