The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
John Sondek grew up in Lewiston, New York, the fourth of five children. His father owned a grocery store, and his mother was a homemaker. Sondek worked hard on his schoolwork and liked all kinds of classes. He particularly remembers his chemistry and biology teachers as being enthusiastic and good. He took his first biochemistry class in high school and became fascinated with DNA manipulation. He also played football in high school.
Sondek's first research experience occurred during college at the University of Rochester, where he worked for Michael Hampsey in Fred Sherman's lab. Becoming more interested in biochemistry, he decided to pursue science as a career, and spent some time in the interview reflecting on the Sherman laboratory and Sondek's own early research experience.
He attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, where he rotated into David Shortle's laboratory to work on protein folding. Wanting to work on heterotrimeric proteins, Sondek accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with Paul Sigler at Yale University. He found that Shortle and Sigler had different mentoring styles, both of which influenced his own style of working with students in lab.
After his postdoc, Sondek accepted a position at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He continued his current research in signal transduction systems controlled by heterotrimeric G protein and he collaborated with T. Kendall Harden. During his time at Chapel Hill, Sondek received the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant, which had a large influence on his work.
As the interview concludes, Sondek gives his views on his obligation to provide service to his professional community and to promote the national science agenda. He goes into greater detail about his current research in the structural biology of signal transduction; the wider context of his work; and practical applications of his research. He describes what he likes best about being a principal investigator; the qualities of a good scientist; and the process of writing journal articles. He answers the interviewer's questions about the issue of patents, his in particular; gender issues in science; science and religion; politics and science; the role of the scientist in educating the public about science; and ethical questions in science. The interview ends with a discussion of Sondek's leisure activities; his professional and personal goals; and the difficulty of balancing family life and work life.
|1985||University of Rochester||BS||Biochemistry|
|1992||Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine||PhD||Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology|
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
|1981 to 1985||
Regents Scholarship, State of New York
|1981 to 1985||
Centennial Prize Scholarship, University of Rochester
|1985 to 1986||
NIH Predoctoral Fellowship, Johns Hopkins University
|1989 to 1992||
Predoctoral Fellowship, Institute for Biophysical Research on Macromolecular Assemblies, Johns Hopkins University
|1991 to 1992||
Institutional Research Grant, Johns Hopkins University
|1993 to 1996||
Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Fellowship
|1999 to 2003||
Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
Table of Contents
Family background. Childhood experiences. Religion. Interests as a young man. Influential teachers. Attending high school in Lewiston, New York. Extracurricular activities. Parental expectations. Meets yeast geneticist Fred Sherman. First research experience working for Michael Hampsey during college. Interest in biochemistry. Attends the University of Rochester. College experiences. Decision to pursue science. Sherman's laboratory. Writing journal articles. Attends graduate school at Johns Hopkins University. Rotations in graduate program at Johns Hopkins. Work on protein folding in David Shortle's laboratory. Patents.
Postdoctoral fellowship with Paul B. Sigler at Yale University. Reasons for wanting to work in the Sigler lab. Shortle's mentoring style. Sigler's mentoring style. Competition in science. Mentoring style. Funding history. Accepts a position at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Current research in signaltransduction systems controlled by heterotrimeric G proteins. Collaboration with T. Kendall Harden. Reasons for becoming a principal investigator. Practical applications of research. Setting up lab. Reasons for accepting the position at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Role in educating the public about science. Process of funding individual research grants from the National Institutes of Health. Service to professional community. National science agenda.
More on current research in the structural biology of signal transduction. Wider context of work. Qualities of a good scientist. Writing journal articles. Patents. Gender. Science and religion. Politics and science. Role of the scientist in educating the public about science. Ethical questions in science. Peer-review system for journal articles. Balancing family and career. Leisure activities. Professional and personal goals.
About the Interviewer
Karen A. Frenkel is a writer, documentary producer, and author specializing in science and technology and their impacts on society. She wrote Robots: Machines in Man’s Image (Harmony 1985) with Isaac Asimov. Her articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, CyberTimes, Business Week, Communications Magazine, Discover, Forbes, New Media, Personal Computing, Scientific American, Scientific American MIND, The Village Voice, and Technology Review. Ms. Frenkel’s award-winning documentary films, Net Learning and Minerva’s Machine: Women and Computing aired on Public Television. She has been an interviewer for Columbia University’s Oral History Research Center’s 9/11 Narrative and Memory project, The National Press Foundation’s Oral History of Women in Journalism, and the International Psychoanalytic Institute for Training and Research’s Oral History. Professional memberships include: The Authors Guild, National Association of Science Writers, Writer’s Guild of America East, and New York Women in Film and Television: Past Member of the Board and Director of Programming. Her website is www.Karenafrenkel.com.