P. Todd Stukenberg

Born: September 16, 1964 | Syracuse, NY, US

P. Todd Stukenberg attended Colgate University, where he designed his own molecular biology curriculum, working in Ken Burns’ lab. He did a joint PhD at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cornell University Medical College, where he discovered sliding clamps while working in Michael O’Donnell’s lab. For postdoctoral work he entered Marc Kirschner’s lab, where he patented in vitro expression cloning. He began his still-continuing work on Aurora B and kinetochore complex Ndc80 and collaborated on Pin1 with Kun Ping Lu. Stukenberg accepted a job offer from the University of Virginia. Believing yeast training to be important, he established a friendship and collaboration with Daniel Burke. He found that Ndc80 complex worked well in Xenopus and developed the use of egg extracts. He explains why he promotes Aurora B as a new class of oncogenes. He explains how kinetochore is involved in binding microtubules and sending a spindle checkpoint signal, for which he has coined the phrase “ionic spaghetti.”

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0805
No. of pages: 131
Minutes: 322

Interview Sessions

Nicole C. Nelson
8 and 9 December 2008
University of Virginia Medical School, Charlottesville, Virginia

Abstract of Interview

P. Todd Stukenberg grew up mostly in Rochester, New York, one of three children. His father worked for Xerox Corporation; his family had a background in and love of art. He always liked science and was good at it. Wanting a liberal arts college in s small city, he attended Colgate University, where he designed his own molecular biology curriculum. During this time he had a seminal lab experience working in Ken Burns’ lab at Cornell Medical School in New York City. He did a joint PhD at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cornell University Medical College, where he discovered sliding clamps while working in Michael O’Donnell’s lab. For postdoctoral work he entered Marc Kirschner’s lab, which had just moved from San Francisco to Harvard University. His research there was into Cdc2, purifying MPF. He patented in vitro expression cloning. He began his still-continuing work on Aurora B and kinetochore complex Ndc80 and collaborated on Pin1 with Kun Ping Lu.

Stukenberg accepted a job offer from the University of Virginia (UVA). Believing yeast training to be important, he established a friendship and collaboration with Daniel Burke. He found that Ndc80 complex worked well in Xenopus and developed the use of egg extracts. He has found the quality of life at UVA less stressful and more rewarding than at Harvard. Of course, publishing and funding remain constant concerns.

During the interview Stukenberg discusses the Pew Scholars application and meetings, as well as the Pew’s monetary and non-monetary rewards. He describes clamp innovation; he explains why he promotes Aurora B as a new class of oncogenes. He explains how kinetochore is involved in binding microtubules and sending a spindle checkpoint signal, for which he has coined the phrase “ionic spaghetti.” He talks about Hill models and the importance of MCAK and the other proteins, viz. Isis, Kf2, TD-60, and Polo. He has established a collaboration with Tarun Kapoor. He attributes some of his insights to his wife’s work in patterning, and he mentions his young son.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1986 Colgate University BA
1993 Weill Medical College of Cornell University PhD

Professional Experience

Harvard Medical School

1997 to 2000
Postdoctorate, Cell Biology, under Marc W. Kirschner

University of Virginia School of Medicine

2000 to 2004
Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
2004 to 2009
Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

Honors

Year(s) Award
1992 to 1993

Charles DeVineau Symposia Winner, Cornell University Medical School

1994 to 1997

NIH-NRSA Postdoctoral Trainee

1997 to 2000

Charles A. King Trust Fellow

2001 to 2004

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Growing up in Rochester, New York. Father's career at Xerox Corporation. Enjoys science in school. Sports. Family background in art. 

College and Graduate School Years
4

Interest to attend liberal arts school. Colgate University. Designs molecular biology curriculum. Labs at Colgate; junior semester abroad at Columbia University. Works with Ken Burns. Decides to pursue PhD. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cornell University Medical College. Works in Michael O'Donnell's lab. 

Postdoctoral Years
48

Marc Kirschner's lab at University of California, San Francisco, later Harvard University. Researches Xenopus embryos. Lab atmosphere and Kirschner's training. Work on Cdc2. Patens in vitro expression cloning. Aurora B and kinetochore complex Ndc80. Collaboration with Kun Ping Lu. 

First Job
70

University of Virginia's offer. Importance of yeast training. Collaboration and friendship with Daniel Burke. Quality of life at Virginia. Unsure about Aurora, but kinetochore Ndc80 complex worked well in Xenopus; using egg extracts. Publishing and funding. 

Continuing Research
84

Impact of Pew Scholars grant. Clamp innovation. Aurora B as new class of oncogenes. Work on kinetochore. "Ionic spaghetti;" Hill modles; spindle checkpoint; merotelic attachments; MCAK; other proteins: Isis, Kf2; TD-60; Polo. Collaboration with Tarun Kapoor. Personal life. 

General Thoughts
106

Faculty of 1000. Study sections, reviewing, patents. Investigating drug production and producers. Life-work balance. Teaching and mentoring. Stuken-Burke Lab. Competition. Advocating for science. Writing grants. Burke and the genetics of yeast. Importance of Kirschner's and O'Donnell's training; early success at Virginia. 

Index
129

About the Interviewer

Nicole C. Nelson