Philip B. Wedegaertner

Born: March 19, 1964 | Stockton, CA, US

Philip B. Wedegaertner grew up in Stockton, California and attended University of California, Davis. He had opportunities to with James W. Blankenship in the School of Pharmacy at University of the Pacific and in Donald M. Carlson's laboratory. Wedegaertner pursued graduate work in biochemistry at University of California, San Diego. There he worked with Gordon N. Gill synthesizing and characterizing the tyrosine kinase domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor. Wedegaertner took a postdoc with Claude Cochet in Grenoble, France. After another postdoc at University of California, San Francisco, he accepted a position at Thomas Jefferson University, continuing work on G proteins. Wedegaertner explores the history of science, tenure, competition and collaboration, the national scientific agenda, privatization of research, and lessons learned becoming a principal investigator.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0520
No. of pages: 87
Minutes: 370

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
8, 10-11 June 2003
Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

Philip B. Wedegaertner grew up in Stockton, California, the younger of two siblings. His father was an organic chemistry professor at the University of the Pacific; his mother held several part-time, volunteer positions while raising her children, though, later in life, went to college at the University of the Pacific and obtained her bachelor's degree in history. Wedegaertner enjoyed reading, playing sports (he joined the wrestling team in high school), and camping (he became an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America). He met the woman who later became his wife in high school through church activities; he always did well in school, liking mathematics and the sciences, but was unsure of what career he wanted to pursue. He matriculated at the University of California, Davis with an undeclared major for his first two years there; subsequently he majored in biochemistry with a minor in history. During the summer of his junior year Wedegaertner worked with James W. Blankenship in the School of Pharmacy at University of the Pacific; during his senior year he worked closely with a graduate student in Donald M. Carlson's laboratory on various independent projects. After completing his undergraduate degree, Wedegaertner decided to remain on the West Coast and pursue graduate work in biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego. There he worked with Gordon N. Gill—after developing an interest in signal transduction—synthesizing and characterizing the tyrosine kinase domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor. Wedegaertner then decided to go abroad and took a short-term postdoctoral fellowship with Claude Cochet, who had worked with Gill, in Grenoble, France; then he returned to the United States and studied with Henry R. Bourne at the University of California, San Francisco, focusing on lipid modifications of G proteins. At the end of his postdoctoral studies, Wedegaertner accepted a position at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, continuing work on G proteins. Throughout the end of the interview he speaks about the process of writing journal articles in the various labs in which he worked, and in his own; how he balances his family life and career; the issue of patents; and the qualities of a good scientist. The interview ends with Wedegaertner's thoughts on the history of science; tenure at Thomas Jefferson University; competition and collaboration in science; the national scientific agenda; the privatization of scientific research; the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his work; and lessons learned in becoming a principal investigator.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1986 BS Biochemistry
1991 PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

Centre D’Etudes Nucleaires De Grenoble

1991 to 1992
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Medicine

University of California, San Francisco

1992 to 1996
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology

Kimmel Cancer Center

1996 to 2003
Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology
2003
Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1997

Margaret Q. Landenberger Research Foundation grant

1997 to 1998

Beginning Grant-in-Aid from the American Heart Association,
Southeastern Pennsylvania Affiliate

1997 to 1998

James A. Shannon Director’s Award from the National Institute of
General Medical Sciences

1997 to 2001

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant

1999 to 2001

W.W. Smith Charitable Trusts grant for Cancer Research

Table of Contents

Early Years and College
1

Stockton, California. Family background. Parents. Brother. Childhood interests and experiences. Friendships. Interest in reading. Early schooling. Favorite subjects. High school years in Stockton. Influential teachers. High school experiences. Extracurricular activities. Meets his future wife. Attends the University of California, Davis. Interest in history. Religion. Parental expectations. Father's career. Decision to attend the University of California, Davis. Bicycle riding hobby during college. Wife's career. Works during the summer of his junior year in James W. Blankenship's laboratory at University of the Pacific, Stockton. Senior independent study project during college inDonald M. Carlson's laboratory.

Graduate School and Postdoctoral Work
26

Attends graduate school at University of California, San Diego. Graduate program at University of California, San Diego. Works for Gordon N. Gill. Gill's laboratory management style. Typical day in graduate school. Doctoral research on synthesizing and characterizing the tyrosine kinase domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor. Writing journal articles. Science in Gordon N. Gill's laboratory. Marriage during graduate school. Postdoctoral fellowship in Claude Cochet's laboratory in Grenoble, France. Living in France. Grant-writing process. Postdoctoral fellowship in Henry R. Bourne's laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco.

Becoming Faculty and Thomas Jefferson University
44

Bourne laboratory and Bourne's laboratory management style. Postdoctoral research on lipid modifications of G proteins. Accepts a position at Thomas Jefferson University. Setting up his laboratory. Current research on the regulation of the G proteins. Broader applications of work. Teaching responsibilities. Travel commitments. Administrative duties. Funding history. Impact of funding sources on the direction of research projects. Writing journal Articles. Lab management style. Duties to professional community. Balancing family life and career. Leisure activities. Typical workday. Achieving professional goals. Future goals. Issue of patents. History of science. Tenure at Thomas Jefferson University.

Final Thoughts about the Scientific Life
70

Competition in science. Research collaborations. Criteria for prioritizing research projects. National scientific agenda. Ethical issues in science. Public policy. Privatization of scientific research. Gender. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Lessons in becoming a principal investigator.

Index
85

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten