Oral history interview with Philip B. Wedegaertner

  • 2003-Jun-08
  • 2003-Jun-10 – 2003-Jun-11

Philip B. Wedegaertner grew up in Stockton, California, the younger of two siblings. His father was an organic chemistry professor at the University of the Pacific; his mother held several part-time, volunteer positions while raising her children, though, later in life, went to college at the University of the Pacific and obtained her bachelor's degree in history. Wedegaertner enjoyed reading, playing sports (he joined the wrestling team in high school), and camping (he became an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America). He met the woman who later became his wife in high school through church activities; he always did well in school, liking mathematics and the sciences, but was unsure of what career he wanted to pursue. He matriculated at the University of California, Davis with an undeclared major for his first two years there; subsequently he majored in biochemistry with a minor in history. During the summer of his junior year Wedegaertner worked with James W. Blankenship in the School of Pharmacy at University of the Pacific; during his senior year he worked closely with a graduate student in Donald M. Carlson's laboratory on various independent projects. After completing his undergraduate degree, Wedegaertner decided to remain on the West Coast and pursue graduate work in biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego. There he worked with Gordon N. Gill—after developing an interest in signal transduction—synthesizing and characterizing the tyrosine kinase domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor. Wedegaertner then decided to go abroad and took a short-term postdoctoral fellowship with Claude Cochet, who had worked with Gill, in Grenoble, France; then he returned to the United States and studied with Henry R. Bourne at the University of California, San Francisco, focusing on lipid modifications of G proteins. At the end of his postdoctoral studies, Wedegaertner accepted a position at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, continuing work on G proteins. Throughout the end of the interview he speaks about the process of writing journal articles in the various labs in which he worked, and in his own; how he balances his family life and career; the issue of patents; and the qualities of a good scientist. The interview ends with Wedegaertner's thoughts on the history of science; tenure at Thomas Jefferson University; competition and collaboration in science; the national scientific agenda; the privatization of scientific research; the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his work; and lessons learned in becoming a principal investigator.

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