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Oral history interview with Jean T. Greenberg

  • 2002-Jun-17 – 2002-Jun-18

Jean T. Greenberg was raised, principally, in New York City with her mother, though she spent weekends in Connecticut with her father; Greenberg had one older brother. Her father was a physician with "the heart" of a scientist; her mother was interested in the arts and worked as a multi-faceted assistant to an author. Greenberg attended private schools in New York City throughout her childhood, but found them unable to cope with students who had interests that went beyond the curriculum or those who were more advanced than their classmates. She maintained strong friendships with peers interested in the humanities and the arts, but found herself much more interested in mathematics and the sciences. Her time outside of school was occupied with enjoying the culture and opportunities of New York City, working, and the weekend commutes to Connecticut. Greenberg applied early to, and was accepted at, Barnard College, where she continued her New York City life while earning her undergraduate degree. Working in a biophysics lab piqued her interest and she decided to apply to biophysics programs for graduate school, ultimately deciding to attend Harvard University. At Harvard, she chose to work in Bruce Demple's laboratory defining the genes involved in the control of the adaptive responses to oxidative stress in bacteria, and appreciating the freedom and personal attention this decision provided, as well as the strong support group of other students and professors in the Boston area. From there, she and her future husband, Adam Driks, decided to remain in Boston and Greenberg began a postdoctoral fellowship in Frederick M. Ausubel's laboratory at Harvard, studying disease resistance and symptoms in the plant Arabidopsis. After her postdoctoral work, she accepted a position at the University of Colorado, Boulder, mapping and characterizing the genes involved in disease resistance, and then at the University at Chicago, working on adaptive resistance to disease, on a pathogen's ability to elicit disease, and on the biology of disease symptoms. At the end of the interview, Greenberg talks about the process of writing journal articles; her lab management style and her professional responsibilities; creativity in science; setting the national science agenda; and the role of the scientist to inform the public. She finishes with a discussion of the privatization of research; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in her research.

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