Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Daniel P. Raleigh

  • 2001-Apr-24 – 2001-Apr-25

Daniel P. Raleigh grew up in Arcata, California, the youngest of four children. His father was a professor at Humboldt State University, his mother a homemaker who had also been a teacher. In addition, all three siblings went into education. Raleigh spent much of his free time outdoors, even for reading. He attended Humboldt State University's laboratory elementary school and then junior high and high school in Arcata, California, public schools, remembering his education as being rather uninspiring, except for mathematics. His extracurricular activities focused on the outdoors: hiking, camping, and the like. He attended Humboldt State, interested in both mathematics and science at first, but an excellent chemistry faculty member inspired him to pursue chemistry. He loved math too and could have majored in it, but he felt he lacked the "spark" to be an original mathematician. Raleigh decided to do graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; there he joined Robert G. Griffin's laboratory, feeling that Humboldt's strong chemistry faculty had prepared him well for graduate studies. While working in Griffin's lab Raleigh developed new theoretical and technical methods and became interested in applying his methodologies to biological problems. For that reason he chose Christopher Dobson's lab at University of Oxford for postdoctoral work in biochemistry. While he was there he met his future wife, Clare P. Grey. Partly from frustration with the relative lack of resources at British universities Raleigh and Grey decided to seek positions in the United States. A postdoc at DuPont Merck Company convinced Raleigh that he did not want to be in a corporate research environment. Like most two-career couples, Raleigh and Grey found that obtaining positions together was challenging; they accepted positions at the State University New York, Stony Brook. He immediately undertook establishing his lab, developing his own form of lab management and mentoring, while at the same time taking on administrative tasks. He purposely chose to avoid corporate funding sources, preferring the freedom offered under traditional funding in the United States. Given the nature of Stony Brook's academic environment, when Raleigh was not writing journal articles or teaching he developed seminar courses for undergraduates, discussing at length the differences between teaching undergraduate and graduate students. He is interested in the history of science, as he feels it is important to place scientific findings in a broader context. Although an academic career afforded a great degree of flexibility, balancing personal life and career has been a challenge for Raleigh. When not working, he committed himself to some environmental causes, though he admitted that he loves his work so much that he feels no sacrifice at having so little free time. His current research centers on conformational changes in proteins, and he talks a little about the practical aspects of his work. He answers the interviewers questions about patents; serendipity in science; the roles of competition and collaboration in science; ethics in science; the importance of overseeing students' work to ensure accuracy and integrity; and the problems inherent in regulating science. The interview ends with a proclamation of Raleigh's professional satisfaction; a discussion of his personal goals; and reflections on his career choices.

Access this interview

By request 1 PDF Transcript File and 8 Audio Recording Files

Fill out a brief form to receive immediate access to these files.

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

PDF — 205 KB