Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Kathleen L. Collins

  • 2006-Jul-10 – 2006-Jul-12

Kathleen L. Collins grew up in Norwell, Massachusetts, a small town near Boston, the second of four children. Her father was a teacher and an assistant principal. Her mother was a nurse until she stayed home with her children; when they were in their teens she became a day care provider. Her parents were devout Roman Catholics, and religion played a large part in Collins' life. Collins attended Norwell's public schools, which she considers very good. She found that she loved chemistry and was strongly influenced by her chemistry teacher. Collins played team sports during her high school years, and she still loves to exercise when she has time. Her parents felt that education was extremely important, and they helped Collins decide to attend Wellesley College. She began in chemistry but discovered biology, particularly molecular biology, and worked in Andrew C. Webb's molecular biology laboratory for her honor's thesis. She also worked on cloning Interleukin-1 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and she felt she wanted to be in the lab all the time. Having wanted to be a doctor since she was a little girl, Collins applied to and was accepted at Johns Hopkins University Medical School; she deferred her start date for a year to finish her lab work and ended up being accepted into the Medical Scientist Training Program, which paid her tuition for a joint MD/PhD degree. After her second year there she did a clinical rotation at Guys Hospital in London. She did her doctoral research on DNA synthesis in Thomas Kelly's molecular genetics laboratory, mentored by Mark Wold. Collins matched with Brigham and Women's Hospital of Harvard University for her internship and residency and began the process of board certification in internal medicine. She decided to do a postdoctoral fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in David Baltimore's lab. Collins describes her work in the Baltimore lab; the broader applications of her postdoctoral research on HIV and cytotoxic T-lymphocytes; and David Baltimore's mentoring style. It happens that she also married at this time. Collins accepted a position at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and set up her lab. She discusses the impact of receiving the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award; gender issues in science; her administrative duties; writing grants; funding, both general and specific; her role in the lab; advice she would give to would-be scientists; publishing; her teaching duties; and her clinical responsibilities. Collins's current research continues in molecular biology, studying the immune response to HIV infection; she plans future research on the biochemical and biological mechanisms of immune responses and latency during viral infection Her professional goals include helping improve science education, which she regards as lacking, encouraging women to become scientists, and helping set a national science agenda. . Her personal goals emphasize the importance of balancing being with her two young children and husband, a cardiologist, with her work in the lab.

Access this interview

By request 1 PDF Transcript File and 10 Audio Recording Files

Fill out a brief form and a staff member will review your request for these files. You should receive an email within 3 business days.

Usage is subject to restrictions set by the interviewee.

If you have any questions about transcripts, recordings, or usage permissions, contact the Center for Oral History at

PDF — 252 KB