Kevan M. Shokat

Born: August 26, 1964 | Boulder City, NV, US

Kevan M. Shokat was raised in Albany, California. His parents were active politically, participating in anti-war and anti-shah movements during the 1970s that culminated in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. While Shokat's high school was vocationally-minded, a guidance counselor suggested he attend Reed College. He did, majoring in chemistry. He completed his thesis with Ronald W. McClard, making inhibitors of enzymes, and doing enzyme kinetics and nucleotide metabolism. While attending grad school at University of California, Berkeley, he worked with Peter G. Schultz in biological chemistry in antibody catalysis. He later accepted a position at Princeton University and received the Pew Scholars Program award. He left Princeton for a position at the University of California, San Francisco, undertaking chemical genetic research on kinases and their substrates. 

Access This Interview

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0527
No. of pages: 108
Minutes: 450

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
24-26 January 2005
University of California, San Francisco, California

Abstract of Interview

Kevan M. Shokat was born in Boulder City, Nevada, but raised (mostly) in the San Francisco Bay Area in Albany, California (except for a year in Iran), the older—by twelve years—of two brothers. His parents were both active politically, participating in anti-war movements and in anti-shah movements during the 1970s that culminated in the Iranian Revolution of 1979; they started their own copying and commercial printing business, but after some time moved into print brokering, his mother taking a position at Charles Schwab. As a child Shokat enjoyed playing sports, especially baseball and track; he excelled in high school and worked with his parents in the family business.

While his high school was vocationally-minded, a guidance counselor suggested that Shokat apply to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, which he did and subsequently attended. He majored in chemistry and enjoyed lectures offered by Thomas G. Dunne, Phyllis Cozen, and Nick G. Galaktos; he completed his thesis with Ronald W. McClard on phosphorous chemistry, making inhibitors of enzymes, and doing enzyme kinetics and nucleotide metabolism. He was unsure of the kind of graduate program that he wanted to attend so he sent applications both to PhD programs and MD/PhD programs, settling on pursuing his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley he worked with Peter G. Schultz in biological chemistry in antibody catalysis, and from there went on to a postdoctoral fellowship in immunology with Christopher C. Goodnow at Stanford University. He then accepted a position at Princeton University, during which time he received the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award and he worked on biochemistry and immunology research in kinase-mediated cell signaling pathways. He left Princeton for a position at the University of California, San Francisco, undertaking chemical genetic research on kinases and their substrates.

At the end of the interview Shokat talks about his future research on chemical genetics and protein kinases in cell signaling pathways; the practical applications of his research; collaboration and competition in science; and his laboratory management style. He also discusses the process of writing journal articles; the issue of patents; the national scientific agenda; the grant-writing process; the privatization of scientific research; educating the public about science; and the importance of students and family in doing science. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1986 Reed College BA Chemistry
1991 University of California, Berkeley PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

Stanford University

1992 to 1994
Postdoctoral Fellow

Princeton University

1994 to 1998
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
1998 to 1999
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology

University of California, Berkeley

1999 to 2007
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry
2001 to 2007
Professor, Department of Chemistry

University of California, San Francisco

1999 to 2007
Associate Professor, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology
2001 to 2007
Professor, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology

University of California, San Diego

2004 to 2007
Vice-Chair, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

2005 to 2007
Investigator

Honors

Year(s) Award
1986

Phi Beta Kappa, Reed College

1986 to 1987

UC Berkeley Regents Fellowship

1989 to 1990

UC Berkeley University Fellowship

1992 to 1994

Life Sciences Research Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow

1995 to 1997

NSF Early Career Development Award

1996 to 2000

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant

1997 to 2000

Searle Scholar

1997 to 2000

Cottrell Scholar

1997 to 1998

Glaxo-Wellcome Scholar in Organic Chemistry

1999 to 2001

Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow

2001

Protein Society Young Investigator

2002

Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry

2003

Thomas Edison Patent Award

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Parents. Childhood experiences. Overthrow of the Shah of Iran. Brother. Early schooling. Interests. Junior and high school in Albany, California.

College Years and Graduate School
17

Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Influential teachers. College experiences. Religion. Meets future wife. Extracurricular activities. Reasons for pursuing chemistry. Graduate school at University of California, Berkeley, in Peter G. Schultz's laboratory. Doctoral research in biological chemistry on antibody catalysis.

Postdoctoral and Early Faculty Years
40

Postdoctoral fellowship with Christopher C. Goodnow at Stanford University. Goodnow's mentoring style. Balancing family and career. Postdoctoral work in immunology. His wife's career. Accepts a position at Princeton University. Setting up his laboratory. The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.

Later Faculty Years
47

Biochemistry and immunology research in kinase-mediated cell signaling pathways at Princeton University. Decides to move to University of California, San Francisco. Tenure at Princeton University. Chemical genetic research on kinases and their substrates. Future in chemical genetics on the protein kinases in cell signaling pathways. Practical applications of his research. Collaboration and competition in science.

Final Thoughts
73

Laboratory management style. Writing journal articles. Advice to young investigators. Patents. Funding history. The national scientific agenda. The grant-writing process. Privatization of scientific research. Educating the public about science. Gender issues in science. Pivotal moment in his career. Importance of students and family in doing science.

Index
106

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten