Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Paul M. MacDonald

  • 1995-Feb-21 – 1995-Feb-23

Paul M. Macdonald was born in Denver, Colorado, to a forensic psychologist from New Zealand and an American nurse. He has an older sister, who is a dean at William and Mary College, and a younger brother. He grew up as much outdoors as he could manage; uninterested in school and preferring skiing, bicycling, backpacking, and rock climbing to studying, he decided to attend Colorado State University's forestry school. During summers he worked for the Youth Conservation Corps in Colorado and then in California. Continuing his uninspired high-school pattern, he remained a poor and undirected student until his last year, when he had a class with Larry Hopwood in radiation biology. He loved the class and asked to work in a lab. Because of his excellent GRE scores and his lab work he was a candidate for graduate school. He went to Georgia Tech partly because it had faculty who interested him and because he wanted to distance himself from his usual outdoor distractions. He worked on bacteriophage mutant in Dwight H. Hall's lab to finish his Master's degree. Then he applied to Vanderbilt for a PhD in molecular bio techniques under Gisela Mosig; Lee Rowen taught him recombinant DNA techniques, and he finished his PhD He accepted a postdoc at Harvard, working in Tom Maniatis's lab. He worked with Gary Struhl there, identifying proteins involved in adh gene expression and with molecular gradient in Drosophila embryos. He went to Colulmbia as a postdoc with Struhl. From there he accepted a faculty position at Stanford University. His work included studying how molecules that control patterning are localized; comparing RNA sequences from different Drosophila species; redundancy of information in Drosophila RNA, and the role of chance in his mRNA oskar research. Macdonald has published many articles, continues at Stanford to run and work in his lab, teaches, and attempts to balance all this with his life at home with his wife and infant son.

Access this interview

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

  • 1 PDF Transcript File
  • 10 Audio Recording Files

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

PDF — 208 KB