Oral history interview with Patricia F. Ducy

  • 2008-Jul-16 – 2008-Jul-17
Photograph of Patricia Ducy

Patricia F. Ducy grew up in Lyon, France, an only child. Her father was in insurance and her mother was a secretary. She attended a very good school a fair distance from her home, so she spent much time with her grandparents who lived near the school. She had a happy, busy childhood in a close family who all spent weekends renovating an old farmhouse. She also loved music and studying guitar. Schooldays were very long and required a lot of homework, but Ducy was self-motivated and had no trouble doing well. When she was about twelve she had a biology teacher who inspired her to go into genetics. After high school, she wanted to go into genetics but had to study pharmacy and then general biology before she was accepted into Université Claude Bernard's PhD program in genetics. She worked in Robert Garrone's histology lab, where she conducted research on actin in fresh-water sponges. She expected to stay in France and do research, but when she heard Gerard Karsenty give a talk she knew she had found what she wanted to do. She accepted a postdoc in Karsenty's lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. Though she had published no papers during her PhD years, she published sixteen as a postdoc; one especially—on osteoblastic-specific transcription factor—has been crucial to the field. She went back to France to look for a job, but facilities in France were limited such that she could not have the large number of mice she needed for her work, so she decided to stay in the United States, accepting a research associate position, then an assistant professorship, at the Baylor College of Medicine. Ducy and Karsenty divided their research, Ducy taking her work on osteoblasts, seeking a connection between fat and bone; they continued to collaborate, and eventually married. Then they moved to Columbia University, where they joined their labs and some of their research. Throughout the interview Ducy describes the French educational and scientific systems and compares them to the American systems. At the end of the interview she talks about getting the Pew award and about the Pew annual meetings; she analogizes science to cooking, both requiring "magic"; and she decries the need to take time away from the bench to seek funding. She speaks about continuing her work on osteoblasts, with a view to preventing and treating bone loss diseases; she also talks about how she and her husband's labs are beginning to work on diabetes.

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