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Oral history interview with Roy M. Long

  • 2005-Dec-02 – 2005-Dec-04

Roy M. Long grew up in Lebanon, a small town near Hershey, Pennsylvania. His father worked at the Hershey factory, his mother in a department store. Because his father worked afternoons and evenings, Long spent most of his time with his mother, older sister, and grandmother. He attended what he calls average public schools, where his performance did not live up to expectations from standardized tests. Teachers told his parents he was good in science and math, so his parents pushed him toward medicine. Long attended Pennsylvania State University, majoring in molecular and cell biology. He made his decision to pursue scientific research rather than medicine when he took a gene expression class; then, wanting to gain lab experience to see if indeed research would be a good career for him, he worked in Ross Hardison's laboratory. He worked for two years as a technician in Alberto Manetta's laboratory and then entered Milton S. Hershey Medical School of Pennsylvania State University for graduate study in biochemistry, where he worked in James Hopper's laboratory. Here he discusses his reasons for choosing Penn State, what the university was like, and his criteria for selecting Hopper's laboratory. He also talks about using yeast as a model system for gene regulation and expression, the running of the Hopper laboratory, and Hopper's mentoring style. He describes his graduate-school classes, his doctoral research in gene expression in Hopper's lab, and thesis defense. During this period of his life, Long also marries and has a daughter. Long accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with Robert Singer at University of Massachusetts Medical School; there his research centered on RNA localization. He discusses Singer's mentoring style and why Singer moved his lab to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where Long did another postdoc. Long interviewed for jobs at a number of universities and eventually chose Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He discusses the process of conducting scientific research; setting up and running his laboratory; funding; the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant on his work; and his teaching and administrative responsibilities. He continues discussing his collaborations; his laboratory management style; how he writes grants; and his view of competition in science. Long next talks about his current research in gene expression studying the mechanisms of RNA localization in yeast; his role in the lab; and practical applications of his research. He expresses his opinion on such issues as setting the national science-funding agenda; patents; how to educate the public about science, the importance of doing so, and the scientist's role in that education; and gender and ethnic issues in science. Long details a typical work day. He concludes by discussing his wife and daughter and explaining how he attempts to balance family and career.

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