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Photograph of Carolyn R. Bertozzi

Oral history interview with Carolyn R. Bertozzi

  • 2003-Aug-17 – 2003-Aug-18

Oral history interview with Carolyn R. Bertozzi

  • 2003-Aug-17 – 2003-Aug-18

Carolyn Bertozzi grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, the second of three girls. Her father was a nuclear physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her mother a secretary in MIT's physics department. Carolyn's father's four siblings, all born in Italy, also went into some branch of science. During the Great Depression Carolyn's maternal grandparents and uncle emigrated from Nova Scotia and established a farm. Carolyn's older sister, a "math genius" now teaches at Duke University, and her younger sister became a psychologist. It was expected that Carolyn and her sisters would do well in school, and Carolyn did, but she also played soccer in high school and was recruited to Harvard with what would be at any other school an athletic scholarship. She found soccer and later crew too time-consuming, however, and quit sports to devote herself to academics. She began as a biology major but in her second year took an organic chemistry class, which she loved, although she continued to take biology classes, she switched her major to chemistry. She was first in her class and eventually graduated summa cum laude, but Harvard's chemistry department was exclusively male at the time. As a result, she went to a lab in the biochemistry department, where Joseph Grabowski, her teacher for a physical organic chemistry class, asked her to work for him during the summer. He was so impressed with her work that he required her to write a graduation thesis, which he then submitted for an award of a substantial amount of money. He convinced her to go to graduate school at University of California at Berkeley. At Berkeley, she joined Mark Bednarski's bioorganic chemistry laboratory to study carbohydrates. Bednarski was also new, and Carolyn found him enthusiastic, and she wrote a number of grant proposals in his lab. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on the synthesis of carbohydrate analogues for biological applications. Continuing her interest in carbohydrates, and contrary to the advice of other chemists, Carolyn went to work in Steven Rosen's cell biology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco, for her postdoc. There she studied the role of carbohydrates in inflammation and leukocyte adhesion. After her postdoctoral work, she accepted an assistant professorship at the University of California at Berkeley and set up her own laboratory. She and Rosen also founded a private company, Thios Pharmaceuticals, Inc. At Berkeley she enjoys teaching, finding her students very intelligent, hard-working, and interesting. In the laboratory she writes (and gets) grants, mentors (particularly women), and sets problems. She has published many journal articles. Her current research interests continue in glycobiology, which she sees as having potentially a wider clinical application. Now a tenured professor, she has a number of academic appointments and steady funding.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 128 pages
  • 8 h 9 m 38 s
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

Institutional location

Oral history number 0529

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Interviewee biographical information

  • October 10, 1966
  • Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1988 Harvard University BA Chemistry
1993 University of California, Berkeley PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

University of California, San Francisco

  • 1993 to 1995 Postdoctoral Fellow, Program in Immunology and Department of Anatomy
  • 2000 to 2004 Professor of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology

University of California, Berkeley

  • 1996 to 1999 Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • 1999 to 2002 Associate Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology
  • 2002 to 2004 Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

  • 1996 to 2004 Faculty Associate, Materials Sciences Division
  • 2000 to 2004 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Director, Biological Nanostructures Facility of The Molecular Foundry


Year(s) Award
1987 Radcliffe Science Research Fellowship
1987 Phi Beta Kappa
1987 Danforth Teaching Award
1988 New England American Institute of Chemists Award
1988 Thomas T. Hoopes Undergraduate Thesis Prize
1988 to 1991 Office of Naval Research Graduate Fellowship
1988 to 1993 AT&T Bell Laboratories Graduate Fellowship
1989 Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award
1990 Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award
1991 to 1992 American Chemical Society Medicinal Chemistry Graduate Fellowship
1992 Bruce Mahan Teaching Award
1993 to 1995 American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship
1995 Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award
1996 Exxon Education Fund Young Investigator Award
1996 to 2000 Pew Scholars Award in the Biomedical Sciences
1997 Burroughs Wellcome New Investigator Award in Pharmacology
1997 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
1997 Horace S. Isbell Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry (ACS)
1998 Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award
1998 Research Corporation Research Innovation Award
1998 Glaxo Wellcome Scholar
1998 Prytanean Faculty Award
1998 Beckman Young Investigator Award
1998 to 2000 Joel H. Hildebrand Chair in Chemistry
1999 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (ACS)
1999 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award
1999 MacArthur Foundation Award
2000 Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE)
2000 UC Berkeley Department of Chemistry Teaching Award
2000 Merck Academic Development Program Award
2001 ACS Award in Pure Chemistry
2001 UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award
2001 Donald Sterling Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
2002 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
2002 Irving Sigal Young Investigator Award of the Protein Society
2003 Elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
2004 Iota Sigma Pi Agnes Fay Morgan Research Award
2005 Havinga Medal, Univ. Leiden
2005 T. Z. and Irmgard Chu Distinguished Professorship in Chemistry
2005 Elected member of the National Academy of Science
2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

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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

10 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads