Oral history interview with Lilianna Solnica-Krezel

Oral history interview with Lilianna Solnica-Krezel

  • 2004-Apr-19 – 2004-Apr-20

Lilianna Solnica-Krezel was born in Cieplice-Sląskie, a small village in the mountains in the southwestern part of Poland, but grew up in Sandomierz, Poland, at a time when the country was still under the communist regime. Despite some limitations due to the political situation, Solnica-Krezel had a happy and normal childhood: she enjoyed reading and spending time on her grandparents’ farm during the summers. Her older brother’s interest in medicine (he became a doctor) fostered an interest in science, and an excellent free educational system provided many opportunities including biology projects in high school.

Solnica-Krezel attended Warsaw University for a master’s degree in molecular biology, specifically studying developmental genetics and working on changes in chromatin structure during gene expression; she attended the University during the Polish Solidarity Movement. In the summer of 1985, she took a predoctoral fellowship in Thomas Schreckenbach’s laboratory at the Max-Planck-Institute in Martinsried, Germany, and analyzed gene expression during sporulation in P. polycephalum; then she became a research associate in the laboratory of Professor Kazimierz Toczko at Warsaw University, working on the characterization of nuclear HMG proteins from P. polycephalum. Wanting to receive her doctorate, and after hearing about the University of Wisconsin from a friend who matriculated there, Solnica-Krezel accepted an offer from the university to undertake her doctoral studies in the laboratory of William Dove. Her graduate work continued in the area of genetics, though this time focusing on changes in composition and organization of microtubular structures during the amoebal-plasmodial development in P. polycephalum. Solnica-Krezel then moved on to Wolfgang Driever’s laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital for a postdoctoral fellowship, where she researched zebrafish embryo mutagenesis and cytoskeletal structure and gained insight into Driever’s laboratory management style and his grant-writing process. She then accepted a position at Vanderbilt University, where her husband, a structural biologist, also accepted a faculty position.

Solnica-Krezel discusses the process of starting up her laboratory, as well as her research on patterning, morphogenesis, and mutant screening in zebrafish. She also describes various aspects of her life as a principal investigator, including her role in the lab, her administrative duties, teaching responsibilities, travel commitments, and the process of writing journal articles and grants. She discusses broader issues related to the science community: the national scientific agenda, the privatization of scientific research, competition and collaboration, and the role of scientists in educating the public about science. Solnica-Krezel’s speaks about the gender and ethnic makeup of her own lab and notes the gender imbalance in her department. She also comments on the environment science provides for women, as well as underrepresented groups. She concludes the interview by discussing the impact the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences has had on her career.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 96 pages
  • 05:13:44
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

Physical location

Physical container
  • Shelfmark R134.86.S6565 A5 2004

Interviewee biographical information

  • May 12, 1961
  • Cieplice-Sląskie, Poland


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1985 University of Warsaw, Poland MS Molecular Biology
1991 University of Wisconsin-Madison, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research PhD Oncology

Professional Experience

Massachusetts General Hospital

  • 1991 to 1995 Postdoctoral fellow, under Dr. Wolfgang Driever

Vanderbilt University

  • 1996 to 2001 Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology
  • 2001 to 2005 Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
  • 2005 to 2010 Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
  • 2006 to 2010 Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of Developmental Genetics
  • 2009 to 2010 University Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Department of Pediatrics

Washington University School of Medicine

  • 2010 Professor and Head, Department of Developmental Biology


Year(s) Award
1978 to 1979 Champion, National Contest in Biology for High School Students, Poland
1986 Distinguished Publication Award, Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education
1989 Wisconsin Power and Light Foundation Fellowship in Cancer Research, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research
1997 Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Award, March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
1998 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences Award

Cite as

Lilianna Solnica-Krezel, interviewed by William Van Benschoten in Vanderbilt University on April 19, 2004. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0934. Science History Institute. Philadelphia. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/r706kyj.

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The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

8 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads