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Oral history interview with James C. A. Bardwell

  • 2004-Apr-05 – 2004-Apr-06

James C. A. Bardwell was born and raised in Saskatoon, Canada. He was influenced early on by his family and by his religion, and knew that he had the interest and drive to go into science. Bardwell entered the University of Saskatchewan and was introduced to research and laboratory work by Louis P. Visentin at the Canadian National Research Council, where he focused his work on recombinant DNA. Bardwell's interest in the outdoors led him to take two trips between his undergraduate and graduate work to Papua, New Guinea and the Northwest Territories, Canada. He continued to travel throughout his graduate career at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and his postdoctorates at the National Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. While at Wisconsin, Bardwell worked in Elizabeth Craig's laboratory on heat-shock proteins, which remain an interest of his to this day. His postdoctoral work included research in genetics on protein disulfide isomerase. After his postdoctoral research and several publications, Bardwell travelled to Germany for a guest professorship, where he gained experience in running a small lab. He left Germany for a position at the University of Michigan, where he has continued his research on protein folding, and where he has had to juggle between family and career—specifically the two-body problem. Bardwell's roles as principal investigator and as an associate chair of his department have required him to take on many responsibilities, including administrative work and recruitment. These duties are in addition to his more "everyday" duties, which include publishing, grant writing, overall laboratory management, and his time at home. He begins to conclude the interview by reflecting on the wider scope of national scientific policy, public awareness of science, and scientific funding, and how these broader themes have influenced his own work and that of his peers. Drawing from his own experience with recruiting, his graduate work with Craig, and his interactions with his wife and peer Ursula Jakob, Bardwell also discussed in detail the state of women in science—in the United States, in Germany, and in his own lab. The interview ends with a discussion of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences, which united Bardwell's love for travel and open discussions of scientific research.

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