Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Karin M. Reinisch

  • 2008-Nov-10 – 2008-Nov-11

Karin M. Reinisch grew up in Massachusetts, one of two daughters. Her father was a physicist, a professor at University of Massachusetts; her mother was a housewife. Her parents were immigrants from Germany, and Reinisch spoke only German until she began school. She had always liked science and languages; she learned Spanish in high school and went on exchange trips to Mexico and Spain. When deciding on a career she considered medicine but chose science instead. Reinisch attended Harvard University, where she majored in chemistry, liking to solve problems, but not liking labs. She had Maitland Jones and George Whitesides as professors, both of whom she considered quite good; she worked in the Whitesides lab, where she became interested in structural biology. She stayed at Harvard for graduate school; there she worked on methyltransferase in William Lipscomb's lab. Reinisch's thesis research became a paper for Cell. Another important event at graduate school was meeting and marrying her future husband, a teaching assistant in one of her classes. After completing her PhD Reinisch accepted a postdoc in Stephen Harrison's lab, where she worked on her reovirus project and published a paper in Nature. From there she accepted a position in Yale University's cell biology department. At the end of the interview she describes developing her own lab, recruiting postdocs, and her current projects. She also discusses her use of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant money; the Mathers Foundation grant; and National Institutes of Health grants. Reinisch continues with an explanation of membrane trafficking; peptide-loading complex; and the importance of getting crystals with high diffraction resolution. She talks about the necessity for confidentiality regarding the lab's work (prior to publication); the Protein Data Bank; and her responsibilities to the scientific community, including attending seminars and conferences; grant-writing; reviewing papers; and teaching. She talks about ethics classes, cultural differences, the future of membrane trafficking, women in science, and science education. She concludes with a description of her husband's job and balancing work life and family life.

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