Mark B. Van Doren

Born: September 3, 1965 | Syracuse, NY, US

Mark D. Van Doren became interested in biology during high school science classes; even before college, he undertook summer research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. At Cornell, Van Doren worked with Efraim Racker who exposed him to the complexities of scientific practice, including research ethics and the need for experimental replication and validation. He published in a scientific journal, an experience that helped him decide upon laboratory science as his career. He then worked at Oncogene Science prior to starting graduate work at University of California, San Diego. There, Van Doren developed an interest in Drosophila and decided to pursue research on the biochemistry of Drosophila BHLH proteins, resulting in a 1991 Development paper. He is now at Johns Hopkins University, where he continues his Drosophila research.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0386
No. of pages: 87
Minutes: 255

Interview Sessions

David J. Caruso
26-27 November 2007
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

Abstract of Interview

Mark D. Van Doren was born and raised in upstate New York with his three siblings. Although Van Doren's father was a physician, he did not discuss medicine or science at home much; Van Doren's interest in biology developed mainly during the course of his high school science classes. He undertook summer research in photoporphyrin derivatives at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York in an attempt to further this interest in biology. After matriculating at Cornell University—a family tradition—Van Doren began research with Efraim Racker in the field of bioenergetics. While working with Racker, Van Doren was exposed to some of the complexities of scientific practice, including research ethics and the need for experimental replication and validation. During his time at Cornell, he was able to publish a paper in a scientific journal, an experience that helped him decide upon laboratory science as his career. After graduating from Cornell, Van Doren worked at Oncogene Science prior to starting graduate work at the University of California, San Diego. While doing a rotation in James W. Posakony's laboratory, Van Doren developed an interest in Drosophila; he then decided to pursue research on the biochemistry of Drosophila BHLH proteins for his degree, which quickly resulted in a 1991 Development paper. In an effort to expand his interest in and knowledge of relevant science early in his graduate career, Van Doren studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory taking a course on embryology. He did his postdoctoral research with Ruth Lehmann, first at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and then at the Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine. In the Lehmann laboratory, Van Doren began his work on Drosophila germ cells that had first peaked his interest at Woods Hole. His HMG-CoA reductase work led to a 1998 Nature publication. Upon completing his post-doctoral research, Van Doren accepted a position at Johns Hopkins University where he has continued his Drosophila research. He received the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences award shortly after starting as a principal investigator, an award that provided him validation as a young researcher. Throughout the interview Van Doren discussed his current research, the challenges of running a laboratory, and funding.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1987 Cornell University BA Biology
1994 University of California, San Diego PhD Biology

Professional Experience

Oncogene Science

1987 to 1989
Research Technician

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

1994 to 1996
Post-doctoral Fellowship, Dr. Ruth Lehmann

Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine

1996 to 1999
Post-doctoral Fellowship, Dr. Ruth Lehmann

Johns Hopkins University

1999 to 2006
Assistant Professor, Department of Biology
2006
Associate Professor, Department of Biology
2006
Co-Director, Graduate Program in Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Biology and Biophysics

Honors

Year(s) Award
1992

Society for Developmental Biology Award for Achievement in Embryology

1994

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Associate

1995

Finalist, Larry Sandler Award (International competition for thesis
work in Drosophila)

1995 to 1997

American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship

1998

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Associate

2000 to 2004

Pew Scholars Award

Table of Contents

Childhood
1

Upstate New York. Physician father. Biology interest in high school. Summer research at Roswell Park Cancer Center.

College Education
10

Cornell University. Family history at Cornell. Prominent medical issues of the 1980s. Laboratory research with Efraim Racker. Publishing as an undergraduate. Scientific ethics and Mark Spector. Oncogene Science after Cornell graduation.

Graduate Education
27

University of California, San Diego. James W. Posakony. Drosophila proteins and biochemistry. Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory course in embryology. Publishing. Process of writing

Post-Doctoral Research
38

Ruth Lehmann. Transition to genetic screening. Lack of laboratory hierarchy. Transition from Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research to the Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine.

Principal Investigator
49

Searching for positions at same time as wife. Johns Hopkins University. Continuing Drosophila research. Running a laboratory. Teaching. Dividing post-doctoral research with Lehmann. Publishing.

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences
59

Pew Scholars Award. Local Scholars. Scientific momentum and validation. Annual Meetings. Policy issues. Potential collaborations.

Funding
66

NIH funding. Preliminary Data. Potential Significance.

Biomedical Science
69

Instrumentation. Changing technology. Bioethics and research. Publishing. Hierarchy of scientific journals. Image of the scientist. Society for Developmental Biology.

Index
84

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.