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Oral history interview with James A. Goodrich

  • 2006-Aug-15 – 2006-Aug-07
Photograph of James A. Goodrich

James A. Goodrich grew up in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, the oldest of five children. His father owned his own business; his mother was a homemaker. Both parents finished high school but did not go to college, so Goodrich felt no expectations for college himself. From about fifth grade, when he had a genuine science teacher, he gravitated toward science. His junior high school was pod-style, and he lost interest as a result until the reversion to regular classroom style. His sophomore chemistry teacher inspired Goodrich's love of chemistry and established his firm desire to be a scientist. Unusually for such a small town, his high school had excellent science and mathematics classes, including his junior-year organic chemistry class. Not realizing what other options science majors had, Goodrich decided to become a doctor. As a result he applied only to the University of Scranton, a Jesuit university nearby that had a very good reputation for placing its graduates in medical schools. He majored in biochemistry. He also had to work throughout. He did his doctoral work in Carnegie Mellon's biology department. There he worked on transcription in William McClure's lab. Goodrich here discusses his doctoral research in the McClure molecular biology laboratory; the running of the McClure laboratory; bioinformatics on transcription regulation; his marriage; and the birth of his first daughter. Next Goodrich accepted a postdoc in Robert Tjian's molecular genetics laboratory at University of California, Berkeley; there his research focused on human transcription. Here he compares McClure's mentoring style with Tjian's; he talks about living in and at Berkeley; and he explains the process of writing journal articles in the Tjian lab. Meanwhile, his wife became a lab technician in Tjian's lab. After about four years as a postdoc Goodrich accepted a position at University of Colorado, Boulder. He discusses setting up his lab and its makeup; the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant on his work; and his teaching responsibilities. He talks about his current research studying the molecular mechanisms of mammalian transcription; about the University of Colorado, Boulder's facilities; about competition and collaboration in science; tenure; and his administrative duties. During a recent sabbatical, he spent half of his time writing a training grant; the second half he spent in the lab. He describes the fun he had being at the bench again. He goes on to give his opinions on such issues as the small numbers of minorities in science; decreasing percentage of women in science as they progress from students to faculty members; science education in the schools; patents; funding; and publishing. He talks a little more about his current research in molecular biophysics on regulation of transcription and the practical applications of his research, and about his professional goals. He concludes by explaining how he tries to balance his work life with his life at home with his wife and two daughters.

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