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Oral history interview with Roberta A. Sanchez Gottlieb

  • 2003-Oct-10
  • 2003-Oct-13
Photograph of Roberta A. Sanchez Gottlieb

Roberta A. Sanchez Gottlieb grew up on a cattle ranch about eighty miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, the youngest of three sisters, though, given the disparity in ages (five and six years older), she felt like she was raised as an only child, receiving so much attention from her parents. Her father was a uranium miner before becoming a rancher; her mother a schoolteacher before having children (becoming a substitute teacher thereafter). She was heavily influenced by her parents who valued education and curiosity, and had several influential teachers in school who contributed to her intellectual development. The family's religion also played an important role in her life. After graduating from high school as valedictorian, Gottlieb matriculated at Bryn Mawr College. Almost immediately upon entering, however, she decided that she wanted to undertake more rigorous scientific research and so she transferred (after one semester) to Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore also provided her the opportunity to continue her study of music at the Peabody Institute with Walter Hautzig. While an undergraduate Gottlieb undertook biophysical research with Michael Beers, focusing on electron microscopy. Based on this experience she developed an interest in microtubule assembly, leading her to work with Douglas B. Murphy during her junior year. Though music was certainly a profound part of Gottlieb's life, she decided to attend the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for her medical degree, conducting research on the MAP-2 protein. Marrying during medical school presented Gottlieb with the "two-body problem" for her residency (her husband was also a physician). They chose the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, where she completed a residency in pediatrics and a hematology-oncology fellowship under William J. Lennarz and Eugenie S. Kleinerman on immune response and protein kinase C inhibition; she also worked with Steven Buescher on neutrophils in the department of infectious diseases. After residency Gottlieb began a postdoctoral position with Michael Karin in molecular biology at the University of California, San Diego and subsequently took another postdoctorate with Bernard M. Babior, where she was able to indulge her interest in apoptosis. She then moved on to a position at the Scripps Research Institute. The interview ends with Gottlieb's thoughts on the broader applications of her work; creativity in science; her future research in myocardial ischemia; the issue of patents and the privatization of research; the role of the scientist in public policy and education; gender issues in science; and balancing family life with work. She concludes the interview by elaborating on the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences for her work and improving the quality of science.

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