Chavela M. Carr grew up near Indianapolis, Indiana in a large family. From early childhood she was interested in school, finding the math-based sciences interesting. Due to a high school human genetics course, Carr decided to pursue molecular biology as an undergraduate. She attended Vanderbilt University, studying German, earning Phi Beta Kappa, and remaining involved in choir and musical theatre. More importantly for her future career, however, Carr also worked with Douglas R. Cavener on Drosophila genetics, a research laboratory experience that differed in distinct ways from her general science laboratory courses. After graduating from Vanderbilt University with honors and awards, Carr attended MIT for graduate work in biology. Soon she joined the laboratory of Peter S. Kim (Pew Scholar Class of 1990) and began researching protein-protein interactions and coiled coils. There she began a long-term collaboration and friendship with Frederick M. Hughson. In 1993 Carr published a Cell paper on the spring-loaded mechanism of conformational change in flu-virus—a paper which merited news releases in the New York Times and Washington Post. After completing her PhD, Carr moved to New Haven, Connecticut to join Peter J. Novick’s laboratory at Yale University, where she wanted to begin working on a yeast model system; her work and publications on the Sec1 proteins binding to SNARES proved controversial and have only recently been resolved. While at Yale Carr met her husband Hays S. Rye, introducing the ‘two-body’ problem to both of their career tracks. Upon receiving a position at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Carr began her research group and soon received the Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Science Award, which she recounted at length. Carr discussed her current research and the difficulties associated with publishing and funding during the oral history and she ended the interview talking about biomedical science more broadly, including the public perception of science and science education.
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