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Oral history interview with Athan Kuliopulos

  • 2002-Dec-02 – 2002-Dec-04

Athan Kuliopulos was raised in North Reading, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, the middle child of three siblings in a close-knit Greek family. His mother worked as a secretary prior to having children, and then began doing so again once her kids were older; his father received his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and his master's degree in electrical engineering from Boston University before working for Bell Laboratories. From an early age Kuliopolos was interested in all aspects of nature—entomology, geology, and meteorology—in the Boy Scouts, in stamp collecting, and playing with his friends and siblings. He enjoyed reading and science in school, working as a science-assistant while in junior high and spending time trying to make gunpowder as a chemistry experiment. In high school, Kuliopolos's biology teacher, Robert Gross, encouraged him to pursue independent biological research for a science fair project—Kuliopolos chose to study bacterial growth and natural products that inhibit such growth. He matriculated at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, where in his sophomore year he had his first publication with Charles W. Boylen (a map of bathymetry of Lake George). After taking James K. Coward's biochemistry course, Kuliopolos then began work in Coward's laboratory studying enzyme kinetics. From Rensselear he went on to the MD/PhD program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he undertook doctoral research on ketosteroid isomerase in Albert S. Mildvan and Paul Talalay's laboratories (he also worked with David Shortle). After Hopkins, he moved into a postdoctoral position researching vitamin K carboxylase in Christopher T. Walsh's laboratory at MIT, and subsequently decided to study G-protein coupled receptors. He met and married his wife and then accepted a position at Tufts University-New England Medical Center, where he has focused his researched on protease activated receptors and pepducins involved in blood coagulation and cell signaling. The interview ends with Kuliopulos's thoughts on his clinical trial collaborations with industry; the process of writing journal articles; balancing family and career; the issue of patents; and the pros and cons of privatization of research. He also reflects on ethical questions in science; his course in the history of medicine during medical school; setting the national science agenda; the role of the scientist in setting public policy; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences in his work.

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