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Oral history interview with Catherine Fenselau

  • 2012-Apr-13 (First session)
  • 2012-Apr-14 (Second session)

Oral history interview with Catherine Fenselau

  • 2012-Apr-13 (First session)
  • 2012-Apr-14 (Second session)

Catherine Fenselau grew up in York, Nebraska. Always interested in science, first archaeology and ultimately chemistry, she attended Bryn Mawr College. The chairman of the chemistry department, Ernst Berliner, became the first of her three mentors. Fenselau received her PhD in organic chemistry from Stanford University, working in the lab of Carl Djerassi, who became her second mentor. For her postdoc at Berkeley, she entered Calvin Melvin's lab, working directly with Alma Burlingame, then at Johns Hopkins University she worked on a broad range of biomedical problems, and her research shifted its direction more toward biochemistry. Her third mentor, Paul Talalay, helped her buy her first spectrometer, which she used for bacterial analysis and for research into anti-cancer treatments. Fenselau accepted the chairmanship of the chemistry department at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she established a regional mass spectrometry center. She began analyzing whole proteins, publishing papers about using mass spectrometry to map protein topography and about HIV Gag proteins. Fenselau moved to University of Maryland, College Park, for a two-year stint as chairman of the chemistry department. She was involved in the study of anthrax-Amerithrax-promoting the rapid detection and characterization of bacteria with mass spectrometry and she established the US Human Proteomics Organization (USHUPO), becoming its first president. She continues to teach and to conduct research in proteomics and bioinformatics.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 220 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

Michael A. Grayson is a member of the Mass Spectrometry Research Resource at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his BS degree in physics from St. Louis University in 1963 and his MS in physics from the University of Missouri at Rolla in 1965. He is the author of over 45 papers in the scientific literature. Before joining the Research Resource, he was a staff scientist at McDonnell Douglas Research Laboratory. While completing his undergraduate and graduate education, he worked at Monsanto Company in St. Louis, where he learned the art and science of mass spectrometry. Grayson is a member of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS), and has served many different positions within that organization. He has served on the Board of Trustees of CHF and is currently a member of CHF's Heritage Council. He currently pursues his interest in the history of mass spectrometry by recording oral histories, assisting in the collection of papers, and researching the early history of the field.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0710

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • April 15, 1939
  • York, Nebraska, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1961 Bryn Mawr College AB Chemistry
1965 Stanford University PhD Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

University of California, Berkeley

  • 1966 Postdoctoral Fellow

NASA Space Sciences Laboratory

  • 1967 Postdoctoral Fellow

Johns Hopkins University. School of Medicine

  • 1967 to 1987 Instructor to Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Science

University of Warwick

  • 1980 Visiting Professor

Kansai Daigaku

  • 1986 Visiting Professor

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

  • 1987 to 1988 Professor and Chair, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • 1995 to 1996 Interim Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Vice President for Research

Moskovskiĭ fiziko-tekhnicheskiĭ institut

  • 1991 Exchange Lecturer

University of Maryland, College Park

  • 1998 Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • 1998 to 2000 Chair, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • 2007 Affiliate faculty, Fischell Department of Bioengineering


Year(s) Award
1965 to 1966 Fellow, American Association of University Women
1970 to 1974 NIH Research Career Development Award
1982 ACS, Best Paper of the Year in Drug Metabolism Disposition
1985 ACS, Garvan medal
1989 Maryland Chemist Award, ACS Chesapeake Section
1991 to 2001 NIH Merit Award
1993 Medal of the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh
1997 to 1998 Robert and Jane Meyerhof Chair in Biochemistry
1998 to 2010 Board of Trustees, Maryland Science Center
1999 Eastern Analytical Symposium Award for Achievements in Analytical Chemistry
2001 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
2003 Hillebrand Prize, ACS Capitol Section
2006 Honorary Foreign Member of the Japanese Society for Mass Spectrometry
2006 Braude Award, ACS Chesapeake Section
2008 ACS Field and Franklin Award for Contributions in Mass Spectrometry
2009 Thomson Medal, International Mass Spectrometry Foundation
2010 Ralph Adams Award for Bioanalytical Chemistry, Pittsburgh Conference (or Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh)
2012 Distinguished Contribution Award, American Society for Mass Spectrometry

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PDF — 1.1 MB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

4 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads