Stewart H. Shuman

Born: December 10, 1955 | New York, NY, US

Stewart H. Shuman was born in Queens, New York. His high school offered an advanced program in science; he recalls especially enjoying an exciting biology class. He also took a college-level class and attended a National Science Foundation program while in high school. He graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University and completed his MD/PhD degree at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva Unversity. He began his career at Massachusetts General Hospital, then moved to the Laboratory of Viral Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). From there he joined Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where he remains today. He has published many articles about his work with capping enzyme in vaccinia virus and covalent catalysis. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0494
No. of pages: 310
Minutes: 1000

Interview Sessions

Neil D. Hathaway
13, 20, 27 September, 4 October 1993, 26 March, 25, 28 June 1994
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York

Abstract of Interview

Stewart H. Shuman was born in Queens, New York; his only sibling is a brother, who is ten years older. His family loosely observed religious strictures, including keeping kosher, because his maternal grandmother insisted upon it, but when Shuman's grandmother died the practices died away. When Shuman began Hebrew School in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah, he became briefly entranced by the Talmud, but he soon lost interest in religion. His mother attempted to inculcate cultural values by taking him to the library, to museums, and to the opera. He still loves to read but is only just learning to appreciate opera. He has loved both math and science from an early age. He attended a high school that offered to select students a very intensive, advanced program in the sciences; there he was in a very exciting biology class, taught by an excellent teacher whom he still remembers. He also took a college-level class while still in high school. During summers he attended a National Science Foundation program that he eventually was invited to teach as well. He graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University and completed his MD/PhD degree at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. He began his career at Massachusetts General Hospital; then he moved to the Laboratory of Viral Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). From there he joined Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where he remains today. He has won awards from the American Cancer Society as well as the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences grant. He has published many articles about his work with capping enzyme in vaccinia virus and covalent catalysis. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1976 Wesleyan University BA
1983 Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University MD/PhD

Professional Experience

Massachusetts General Hospital

1983 to 1986
Medical House Officer, Medical Services

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

1986 to 1988
Medical Staff Fellow, Laboratory of Viral Diseases

Sloan-Kettering Institute

1988 to 1992
Assistant Member, Molecular Biology Program

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

1988 to 1992
Assistant Member
1992 to 1995
Associate Member
1995 to 1996
Member

Honors

Year(s) Award
1975

Phi Beta Kappa

1982

Alpha Omega Alpha

1989

American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award

1990 to 1994

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1994

American Cancer Society Faculty Research Award

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Shuman's quasi-Orthodox Jewish upbringing. Influence of his brother, Stephen Shuman. Exposure to books and the arts at a young age. Early interest in math and science blossoms in enriched science program at Forest Hills High School. High school science teacher, Michael Krutoy's influence. Involvement in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Summer Program in Biochemistry.

Undergraduate Years
36

Attends Wesleyan University. Spends a summer working on a fractionated translation system in Lewis N. Luken's laboratory. Spends a summer in K. Gordon Lark's lab at the University of Utah. Effects of the new recombinant DNA technology on Shuman's undergraduate and graduate research. Teaches at the NSF Summer Program in Biochemistry.

Graduate Years
71

Enrolls in MD/PhD program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Faculty and medical school classes at Einstein. Einstein's leftist culture. Chooses Jerard Hurwitz as a PhD mentor. Hurwitz's scientific training and approach. Searching for a kinase that would add phosphates to RNA. RNA research in the 1970s. Hurwitz's contributions to the field of procaryotic replication. Characterizing RNA polymerase via pyrophosphate exchange leads Shuman to study capping enzyme. Role of a covalent enzyme-guanosine monophosphate intermediate in catalysis. Usefulness of vaccinia virus as a system for studying capping enzyme. Vaccinia capping enzymes utilize the mechanism of covalent catalysis

Clinical Work
145

Rotations in a public hospital. Residency at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Managing relationships with coworkers. The Angry Young Intern award. Emergence of AIDS during Shuman's residency at MGH. Effect of HIV infection on medical care. Shuman's preference for a research career. Lack of opportunities for residents who decided to stay on at MGH.

Postdoctorate at National Institutes of Health (NIH)
186

Decision to pursue a postdoc in virology. Returning to research on vaccinia virus. Moss's work on the molecular biology of the vaccinia virus. The discovery that foreign DNA can be cloned into vaccinia virus. Vaccinia's usefulness as a eukaryotic vector. Moss lab's contribution to understanding viral gene expression. Virology's marginal status within the biological sciences. Belief that Moss's virus research remains undervalued in the scientific community at large. Discoveries in virology that proved applicable to other systems. More on virology's marginal status. Shuman's arrival at the Moss lab at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Collaborating with Steven S. Broyles on in vitro transcription assays. Identifies capping enzyme as the transcription termination factor in vaccinia virus Conducting experiments with vaccinia DNA topoisomerase.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
252

Accepts fellowship in Laboratory of Viral Diseases at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Setting up and managing his own lab. Becoming assistant, then associate, member of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Funding. Current state of projects in his lab. Collaborating with Beate Schwer to analyze the role of the cap in yeast. Covalent catalysis as the overarching theme ofShuman's lab's work. Successful science as a combination of luck and wise choices. Shuman's desire to make significant scientific discoveries. Shuman's personal relationship with Schwer.

Index
304

About the Interviewer

Neil D. Hathaway