Lili Yamasaki

Born: 1960 | Royal Lake, MI, US

Lili Yamasaki grew up near Detroit, Michigan. She had an early interest in art and writing, which she believes leads to creativity in science. Like all her siblings, Yamasaki attended University of Michigan for undergrad, where she studied chemistry, but diversified her education with humanities classes. During summers she worked in various labs focused on chemistry. After graduating, she accepted a position doing enzymology research at Stanford University with Donna L. Wong and Roland D. Ciaranello. Wanting to obtain a doctoral degree, she attended University of Texas Health Science Center, where she worked with Robert E. Lanford on receptor specificity in nuclear transport. After a postdoc, Yamasaki took a position at Columbia University, looking at the regulation of growth and development by suppressors and activators.

Access This Interview

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0606
No. of pages: 108
Minutes: 349

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
8-9 January 2004
Columbia University, New York City, New York

Abstract of Interview

Lili Yamasaki grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan, the second youngest of six siblings. Yamasaki's father was a physician and her mother a nurse, until she began raising her children. Yamasaki had an early interest in art and in writing, which she believes leads to creativity in science. She excelled in school, developing a proficiency in and curiosity about science, though she had a very well-rounded education and several influential teachers. Like all of her siblings, Yamasaki entered the University of Michigan to pursue her undergraduate degree, committed to her early interest in chemistry but still diversifying her education with classes in the humanities. During summers she worked or interned in various labs focused on chemistry—at the Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, with Donald Huppi at Michigan, and at Gelman Instrument Company. While working at the University of Michigan for a year after graduation, for personal and professional reasons Yamaski decided to apply to positions on the West Coast, ultimately doing enzymology research in the department of psychiatry at Stanford University with Donna L. Wong and Roland D. Ciaranello. Wanting to return to school to obtain a doctoral degree, she applied to a number of graduate programs, ultimately accepting an offer from the University of Texas Health Science Center, where she worked in Robert E. Lanford's laboratory on receptor specificity in nuclear transport. From there she moved on to postdoctoral research on retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein in mice at Massachusetts General Hospital, with Edward Harlow, Nicolas Dyson, and Tyler Jacks as her mentors. Yamasaki took a position at Columbia University at the end of her postdoctoral research looking at the regulation of growth and development by suppressors and activators. Throughout the interview she comments upon her role in the laboratory over time, her and her mentors' process of writing journal articles as well as laboratory management styles; and her daughter and balancing family and career. The interview ends with a discussion of patents; the privatization of research; gender issues in science; and the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1982 University of Michigan BS Chemistry
1991 University of Texas Health Science Center PhD Microbiology

Professional Experience

Massachusetts General Hospital

1997
Postdoctorate

Columbia University

1997 to 2006
Associate Professor

Table of Contents

Childhood and College Years
1

Family background. Growing up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Parents. Siblings. Childhood interests and experiences. Interest in reading. Early schooling. Creativity in science. Reasons for pursuing biology rather than chemistry. Junior high and high school experiences. Influential teachers. Qualities of a good teacher. Enters the chemistry program at the University of Michigan. Reasons for studying chemistry. Parental expectations. Religion. College experiences.

Post-undergraduate Research and Graduate School
37

More on college experiences. Works as a research assistant for Donna L. Wong at Stanford University. Attends graduate school at University of Texas Health Science Center. Works in Robert E Lanford's laboratory. Lanford's laboratory management style. Research on receptor specificity in nuclear transport.

Postdoctoral Work and Columbia University
54

Postdoctoral research on retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein in mice at Massachusetts General Hospital. Edward Harlow, Nicolas Dyson, and Tyler Jacks. Accepts position at Columbia University. Meets and marries husband. Setting up laboratory. Current research on the regulation of growth and development by suppressors and activators. Practical applications of research. Teaching responsibilities. Travel commitments. Administrative duties. Funding history. Writing journal articles. Laboratory management style. Duties to professional community. Balancing family and career. A typical workday. Professional goals. Tenure at Columbia University. Patents. Privatization of research.

Thoughts about Science and the Scientific Life
85

Source of ideas. Competition in science. Role of the scientist in educating the public about science. Collaboration in science. Gender. Improving diversity in science. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Reasons for becoming a principal investigator.

Index
106

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten