Yolanda Sanchez

Born: September 16, 1962 | El Paso, TX, US

Yolanda Sanchez's interest in science began in high school, doing some research on Achyla recurva. Sanchez attended University of Texas at El Paso and was awarded a Minority Access to Research Careers grant. She worked on tumor suppressor genes and became interested in cell cycle and DNA repair. She chose Ann Killary’s lab at the University of Texas at San Antonio, moving with Killary to the University of Texas at Houston, where she worked on microcell-mediated chromosome transfer. For a postdoc Sanchez went to at Baylor University to work on the cell cycle in yeast. She published three papers there, including a Science paper on Rad53 kinase, and found Chk1 in yeast and humans. Sanchez discusses her Pew Scholars application topic and benefits of winning the prize. She describes her experiences with education of laymen, including the politics often involved in that education. She discusses balancing home life with work life, advocating for government-mandated and government-provided child care. Sanchez concludes her interview with a call for ethics classes and a greater emphasis on ethics in the practice of science.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0803
No. of pages: 76
Minutes: 241

Interview Sessions

David J. Caruso
29 and 31 July 2008
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

Abstract of Interview

Yolanda Sanchez was born in El Paso, Texas, but grew up in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. She was one of five children whose father was an architect, now a teacher, and a housewife. Sanchez spent a year in New Zealand, improving her English and beginning to establish her independence. Her interest in science began in high school, where she did well in math and chemistry, loved biology, and did some research on Achyla recurva. Her parents valued education, but their daughters (who were told they could not marry until they had finished a degree) were allowed to go to college only locally, so Sanchez chose University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and was awarded a Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) grant. She worked on tumor suppressor genes and became interested in cell cycle and DNA repair. She chose Ann Killary’s lab at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), moving with Killary’s lab to the University of Texas at Houston, where she worked on microcell-mediated chromosome transfer. She married another scientist during this time and stayed in the lab for another year while waiting for her husband to finish his degree. For a postdoc Sanchez went to Stephen Elledge’s lab at Baylor University to work on the cell cycle in yeast. She published three papers there, including a Science paper on Rad53 kinase, and found Chk1 in yeast and humans.

Sanchez and her husband, Craig Tomlinson, accepted positions at the University of Cincinnati. She received a good startup package and found congenial colleagues as well as the possibility of collaborators. She was able to bring with her what she had worked on in Elledge’s lab, but she still found the transition to being PI difficult in some ways, especially because of the intrusion of politics into her lab management and into publishing. In her lab she emphasized teamwork and toughness.

Next Sanchez moved to an associate professorship at Dartmouth College, where her husband became head of the genomics core. She spends less time in the lab but hopes to be able to spend more time there in the future. She believes that basic science is crucial for medicine and that National Institutes of Health allocates funding inappropriately against basic science.

Sanchez discusses her Pew Scholars application topic (DNA damage and repair) and scholarship, the money it afforded her, potential and realized collaborations, and the Pew meetings. Her lab receives annual income from a patent; she talks about that patent and patents in general; she believes that patents help protect innovation. Sanchez compares her experience of religion in science in both Mexico and the United States. She describes her experiences with education of laymen, including the politics often involved in that education. She discusses balancing home life with work life and, although her husband is very supportive, she advocates for government-mandated and government-provided child care. Sanchez concludes her interview with a call for ethics classes and a greater emphasis on ethics in the practice of science.

 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1987 University of Texas, El Paso BS Biology
1996 University of Texas Health Science Center PhD Biology

Professional Experience

Baylor College of Medicine

1994 to 1998
Postdoctorate, Biochemistry

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

1997 to 2000
Postdoctorate, Laboratory Medicine

University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

1998 to 2004
Assistant Professor
2004 to 2006
Associate Professor with Tenure

Dartmouth Medical School

2006 to 2017
Associate Professor of Molecular and Systems Biology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1985

NIH/NIGMS MARC Scholarship and Grant Recipient

1987

Summa Cum Laude Graduate at the University of Texas, El Paso

1987

University Honors, University of Texas, El Paso Honors Program

1987

Biology Department Honors with Senior Honors, University of Texas, El Paso

1988

NIH/NIGMS Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Predoctoral Fellowship Recipient

1988

Young Investigator Travel Grant Recipient, "Gene Regulation and Oncogenes" Conference, American Association for Cancer Research

1995 to 1997

NIH/NIGMS NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship Recipient

2001

Career Development Award, Department of Defense Breast Cancer Program

2001 to 2005

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences Award

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Born in El Paso, Texas; raised in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Family background. Interest in science in high school. Year as exchange student in New Zealand. Religion also important. Good at math, chemistry, loves biology; some lab research. Volunteer work. Family’s influence in choice of career.

College and Graduate School Years
13

Sanchez attends University of Texas at El Paso. Begins in psychology, anthropology, decides on biology, then bioscience. Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) grant. Works on tumor suppressor genes; interest in newly-discovered cell cycle and DNA repair conjunction. Ann Killary’s lab at UT San Antonio for graduate school, later to UT Houston. Microcell-mediated chromosome transfer. Killary’s lab size, composition. Competition with other labs. Marries. Louise Strong’s advice for postdoc.

Postgraduate Years
32

Wants to work on cell cycle in model organism; Stephen Elledge’s lab at Baylor University. Three papers. Science paper on Rad53 kinase in yeast; team effort. Chk1 in yeast and humans. Long hours at lab; husband supportive. Back-and-forth writing for papers with Elledge. Other Pew Scholars in lab with her.

First Job
40

Two-body problem. University of Cincinnati. Good startup package, congenial colleagues, potential collaborations. Negotiates with Elledge  on what she could take with her. Experiences the “politics” for first time. Toughness and teamwork in her lab. Teaching to community. Lab composition; writing with students. Politics of publishing; anonymity of reviewers and authors.

Moving to Dartmouth College
50

Dartmouth’s attitude toward couples; husband also offered job. Sanchez’s other duties; much less time in lab. Mentoring; differences among students. MD/PhD student relates research to human disease. Importance of basic science for medicine.

General Observations
55

Pew Scholarship. Application process, help from other Pew Scholars, friends. Topic:  how protein senses DNA damage; whether it helps repair DNA damage. Importance of Pew money. Collaborations and competition aided by Pew. Students in science:  fewer? Foreign? Loves her work, thinks of it as her dream. Patents and her lab’s income. How patents help science. Religion and science in United States and Mexico. Science education; politics and science education. Balancing home life with work. Discussion of ethics. Impossibility of exact replication. Science as a community.

Index
75

About the Interviewer

David J. Caruso

David J. Caruso earned a BA in the history of science, medicine, and technology from Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and a PhD in science and technology studies from Cornell University in 2008. Caruso is the director of the Center for Oral History at the Science History Institute, president of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and editor for the Oral History Review. In addition to overseeing all oral history research at the Science History Institute, he also holds an annual training institute that focuses on conducting interviews with scientists and engineers, he consults on various oral history projects, like at the San Diego Technology Archives, and is adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching courses on the history of military medicine and technology and on oral history.  His current research interests are the discipline formation of biomedical science in 20th-century America and the organizational structures that have contributed to such formation.