Digital Collections

Oral history interview with P. Todd Stukenberg

  • 2008-Dec-08 – 2008-Dec-09

P. Todd Stukenberg grew up mostly in Rochester, New York, one of three children. His father worked for Xerox Corporation; his family had a background in and love of art. He always liked science and was good at it. Wanting a liberal arts college in s small city, he attended Colgate University, where he designed his own molecular biology curriculum. During this time he had a seminal lab experience working in Ken Burns’ lab at Cornell Medical School in New York City. He did a joint PhD at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cornell University Medical College, where he discovered sliding clamps while working in Michael O’Donnell’s lab. For postdoctoral work he entered Marc Kirschner’s lab, which had just moved from San Francisco to Harvard University. His research there was into Cdc2, purifying MPF. He patented in vitro expression cloning. He began his still-continuing work on Aurora B and kinetochore complex Ndc80 and collaborated on Pin1 with Kun Ping Lu.

Stukenberg accepted a job offer from the University of Virginia (UVA). Believing yeast training to be important, he established a friendship and collaboration with Daniel Burke. He found that Ndc80 complex worked well in Xenopus and developed the use of egg extracts. He has found the quality of life at UVA less stressful and more rewarding than at Harvard. Of course, publishing and funding remain constant concerns.

During the interview Stukenberg discusses the Pew Scholars application and meetings, as well as the Pew’s monetary and non-monetary rewards. He describes clamp innovation; he explains why he promotes Aurora B as a new class of oncogenes. He explains how kinetochore is involved in binding microtubules and sending a spindle checkpoint signal, for which he has coined the phrase “ionic spaghetti.” He talks about Hill models and the importance of MCAK and the other proteins, viz. Isis, Kf2, TD-60, and Polo. He has established a collaboration with Tarun Kapoor. He attributes some of his insights to his wife’s work in patterning, and he mentions his young son.

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