Jason D. Weber

Born: April 28, 1971 | Champaign, IL, US

Jason D. Weber grew up in Edwardsville, Illinois and attended Bradley University to study biotechnology, a new field that was to become what is now molecular biology. A radiation biology class led him into the study of cancer and tumor suppression. He loved working in the lab and knew he wanted to do that for his career. Before entering graduate school he spent a year and a half at Monsanto, working on Celebrex® in Peter Isakson's lab. For his PhD he went into St. Louis University's cell and molecular biology program, where Joseph Baldassare became his mentor, working on the cell cycle and publishing five papers in addition to his thesis. He is now an associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0647
No. of pages: 105
Minutes: 279

Interview Sessions

Hilary Domush
7-8 October 2008
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

Abstract of Interview

Jason D. Weber grew up in Edwardsville, Illinois, one of two children. His father was an internist; his mother a teacher. As a youngster he liked to read, especially science fiction, to hang around with friends, and to play soccer. He was always interested in science. Weber entered Bradley University to study biotechnology, a new field that was to become what is now called molecular biology. He discontinued his soccer playing after the first year so that he could concentrate on his studies. In his second year he entered the lab of Samuel Fan, who Weber says was his greatest influence. A radiation biology class led him into the study of cancer and tumor suppression. He also met his future wife while an undergraduate. He loved working in the lab and knew he wanted to do that for his career. Before entering graduate school he spent a year and a half at Monsanto, working on Celebrex in Peter Isakson's lab. For his PhD he went into St. Louis University's cell and molecular biology program, where Joseph Baldassare became his mentor, working on the cell cycle and publishing five papers in addition to his thesis. At a meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Weber met Charles Sherr and decided he wanted to go to Sherr's lab at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. There he worked on ARF. His work got him onto the cover of the first issue of Nature Cell Biology. Weber began looking for a job, hoping to stay in the Midwest. He accepted an assistant professorship at Washington University in St. Louis's new molecular oncology program, where he is now an associate professor. At the end of the interview he describes his own start-up package; his style of lab management; his postdocs and students; his publications and grants; the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award's timeliness; the Pew meetings; patents; his responsibilities at the university; and science education. He analogizes science to the farm-team system in baseball. He talks a little about his family and how he balances his life with them with his work life. Weber concludes the interview with an explanation of plans for his future work and a commentary on science and scientists in other countries, particularly China and Japan, versus those in the United States.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1993 Bradley University BS Biotechnology
1997 St. Louis University PhD Molecular and Cell Biology

Professional Experience

Monsanto Company

1993 to 1994
Research Fellow, Immunoinflammatory Diseases under Dr. Peter C. Isakson

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

1997 to 2000
St. Jude Children‟s Research Hospital, Postdoctorate, under Dr. Charles J. Sherr

Washington University in St. Louis

2001 to 2007
Assistant Professor, Cell Biology and Physiology
2007
Associate Professor, Cell Biology and Physiology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1993

Monsanto Internship

2001 to 2004

Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. Foundation Scholar

2002 to 2006

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

2005 to 2008

Distinguished Service Teaching Awards

2006

Medical School Teacher of the Month

2008 to 2012

American Cancer Society Research Scholar

2008 to 2013

Breast Cancer Research Program Era of Hope Scholar

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Parental expectations. Early interest in science. Loved reading and writing. Soccer.

College Years
5

Matriculates into Bradley University. Begins short-lived soccer career. Majors in biotechnology, now called molecular biology. Samuel Fan comes from Duke University, becomes Weber's biggest influence. Radiation biology class convinces him to study cancer. Meets future wife in psychology class. Not informed of importance of graduate school. Works for eighteen months for PeterIsakson at Monsanto. Works on Celebrex.

Graduate School Years
15

Enters St. Louis University's new cell and molecular biology program. Joseph Baldassare becomes mentor. Works on connecting signaling to cell cycle. Five papers. Meets Charles Sherr at Cold Spring Harbor meeting.

Postdoc Years
26

Convinces Sherr to offer him postdoc at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Works on ARF. Cover of first issue of Nature Cell Biology. Writing papers for Sherr. Life in the lab. Sherr's lab management. Grants. Finishes PhD in just three and one-half years.

Faculty Years
39

Wanted job in Midwest. Accepted assistant professorship in new molecular oncology program at Washington University in St. Louis. Start-up package. Sherr's generosity with project, equipment, and materials. Setting up and staffing his lab. Being a PhD in a medical school environment.

General Thoughts
55

Politics of grants and parallels with publishing. Pew grants and Pew meetings. Open access journals. Science education. Internships at Washington University. Administrative duties; teaching; his students; patents; baseball as analogy for science. Balancing family life with work life.

Index
102

About the Interviewer

Hilary Domush

Hilary Domush was a Program Associate in the Center for Oral History at CHF from 2007–2015. Previously, she earned a BS in chemistry from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 2003.  She then completed an MS in chemistry and an MA in history of science both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her graduate work in the history of science focused on early nineteenth-century chemistry in the city of Edinburgh, while her work in the chemistry was in a total synthesis laboratory.  At CHF, she worked on projects such as the Pew Biomedical Scholars, Women in Chemistry, Atmospheric Science, and Catalysis.