Phillip D. Zamore

Born: November 29, 1963 | Brooklyn, NY, US
Photograph of Phillip D. Zamore

Philip D. Zamore spent his childhood in New York City and Long Island. As an undergraduate, Zamore developed his interest in science and decided to focus on molecular biology. He spent time in several laboratories, though the majority of his laboratory experience was at Massachusetts General Hospital with John H. Hartwig. Staying at Harvard for a semester after graduating to work as a laboratory technician with Michael R. Green, Zamore decided to conduct his graduate research there as well. He moved with Green from Harvard to the University of Massachusetts, Worcester, where his work on snRNP flourished. He detailed his experiences with RNAi and his early work running his own laboratory. Throughout the interview Zamore discussed the importance of writing and publishing and his relationship with his students, as well as balancing his family life with his career.

Access This Interview

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0396
No. of pages: 123
Minutes: 357

Interview Sessions

Karen A. Frenkel
20-21 December 2007
University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts

Abstract of Interview

Philip D. Zamore's oral history begins with a discussion of his childhood in New York City and Long Island. Explaining his family's emphasis on education and the influence of his father, Zamore detailed his father's illness and death while Zamore attended Harvard University. As an undergraduate at Harvard Zamore developed his interest in science and decided to focus on molecular biology. He spent time in several laboratories including one summer at The Rockefeller University with Sid Strickland and Michael W. Young, though the majority of his laboratory experience was at Massachusetts General Hospital with John H. Hartwig. Staying at Harvard for a semester after graduating to work as a laboratory technician with Michael R. Green, Zamore decided to conduct his graduate research there as well. He moved with Green from Harvard to the University of Massachusetts, Worcester, where his work on snRNP flourished. Subsequently Zamore undertook postdoctoral research with Ruth Lehmann at the Whitehead Institute for Biological Studies at MIT and he collaborated with the laboratories of James R. Williamson and David P. Bartel after Lehmann moved to the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University. After his postdoctoral studies, but before moving to his Principal Investigator position at the University of Massachusetts, Zamore began working in the emerging field of RNAi. He detailed his experiences with RNAi and his early work running his own laboratory including the receipt of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Award. Throughout the interview Zamore discussed the importance of writing and publishing and his relationship with his students, as well as balancing his family life with his career. He also compared government funding to private funding, and criticized the U. S. government for not sponsoring riskier science. Zamore explained his experiences in starting the biotech firm Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and concluded his oral history interview with a discussion of trends in biomedical science, RNA research, and globalization.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1986 Harvard University AB Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
1992 Harvard University PhD Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
1992 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Advanced Drosophila Gene Course

Professional Experience

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

1993 to 1999
Postdoctoral research with Ruth Lehmann
1998 to 1999
Postdoctoral research jointly with David P. Bartel
1996 to 1999
Postdoctoral research jointly with James R. Williamson

University of Massachusetts Medical School

1999 to 2002
Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
2002 to 2005
Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
2004 to 2005
Associate Professor with tenure, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
2005
Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
2005
Gretchen Stone Cook Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1987 to 1990

National Science Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship

1993 to 2006

Life Sciences Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship

1997 to 1999

Charles H. Hood Postdoctoral Fellowship

2000 to 2004

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

2002 to 2007

W.M. Keck Foundation Young Scholar in Medical Research

2007

RNAi Innovator Award, “RNAi Meeting,” Boston, Massachusetts

Table of Contents

Childhood and Early Education
1

Growing up on Long Island. Father's illness and death. Education prized in family. Summer science courses at Columbia University and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Interests in graphic design and journalism. Importance of family.

Undergraduate Education
10

Harvard University. Molecular Biology course. Developing interest in obtaining a PhD Laboratory experiences with John Hartwig and David Beck. Summer Research at Rockefeller University with Sid Strickland and Michael [W. ] Young.

Graduate Education
22

Harvard University. Technician for Michael R. Green. Moving from Harvard University to the University of Massachusetts, Worcester. Side project on snRNA. Successful research on snRNPs.

Postdoctoral Research
35

Developmental RNA research with Ruth Lehmann at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Her move to the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University. Jointly advised by James R. Williamson, David P. Bartel, and Lehmann. Different laboratory styles.

Principal Investigator
38

Choosing position at the University of Massachusetts, Worcester. Beginning of RNAi research. Gene silencing. Writing papers.

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences
50

Prestige of other scholars. Established fields versus RNAi research. Annual Meetings. Sense of community. Scientific research and the continuity of science.

The Scientific Life
55

Obligations to students. Writing and publishing papers. Scientific competition. Styles of scientific writing.

Funding
62

Keck Fellowship. Grants as confidence builders. Fairness of NIH R01 system. Briefly without external funding. NIH grant scores and percentiles. Flawed general funding situation. Publishing versus speaking. RNAi research. Risk. Biotech.

Private and Public Science
77

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. Distinction between funding for company and funding for laboratory. Collaboration. Patents and scientific culture. Basic science. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Department of Homeland Security.

Family Life
90

Balancing family and research. Children and postdoctoral research. Campaign for improved day care. Nobel Prize Talks in Sweden.

Trends in the Scientific Community
99

Biomedical trends and RNA research. Publishing. Increased scientific specialization.

Biomedical Science and the Public
102

Politics and funding. Investment in a scientific future. Insults to scientific process and thought. NIH. Translational research.

Scientists and Science
105

Time management. Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Public understanding of science. Globalization and science. Restrictions on science.

Index
120

About the Interviewer

Karen A. Frenkel

Karen A. Frenkel is a writer, documentary producer, and author specializing in science and technology and their impacts on society. She wrote Robots: Machines in Man’s Image (Harmony 1985) with Isaac Asimov. Her articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers including The New York TimesCyberTimesBusiness Week, Communications Magazine, DiscoverForbesNew Media, Personal Computing, Scientific American, Scientific American MIND, The Village Voice, and Technology Review. Ms. Frenkel’s award-winning documentary films, Net Learning and Minerva’s Machine: Women and Computing aired on Public Television. She has been an interviewer for Columbia University’s Oral History Research Center’s 9/11 Narrative and Memory project, The National Press Foundation’s Oral History of Women in Journalism, and the International Psychoanalytic Institute for Training and Research’s Oral History. Professional memberships include: The Authors Guild, National Association of Science Writers, Writer’s Guild of America East, and New York Women in Film and Television: Past Member of the Board and Director of Programming. Her website is www.Karenafrenkel.com.