Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Mark B. Van Doren

  • 2007-Nov-26 – 2007-Nov-27

Mark D. Van Doren was born and raised in upstate New York with his three siblings. Although Van Doren's father was a physician, he did not discuss medicine or science at home much; Van Doren's interest in biology developed mainly during the course of his high school science classes. He undertook summer research in photoporphyrin derivatives at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York in an attempt to further this interest in biology. After matriculating at Cornell University—a family tradition—Van Doren began research with Efraim Racker in the field of bioenergetics. While working with Racker, Van Doren was exposed to some of the complexities of scientific practice, including research ethics and the need for experimental replication and validation. During his time at Cornell, he was able to publish a paper in a scientific journal, an experience that helped him decide upon laboratory science as his career. After graduating from Cornell, Van Doren worked at Oncogene Science prior to starting graduate work at the University of California, San Diego. While doing a rotation in James W. Posakony's laboratory, Van Doren developed an interest in Drosophila; he then decided to pursue research on the biochemistry of Drosophila BHLH proteins for his degree, which quickly resulted in a 1991 Development paper. In an effort to expand his interest in and knowledge of relevant science early in his graduate career, Van Doren studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory taking a course on embryology. He did his postdoctoral research with Ruth Lehmann, first at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and then at the Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine. In the Lehmann laboratory, Van Doren began his work on Drosophila germ cells that had first piqued his interest at Woods Hole. His HMG-CoA reductase work led to a 1998 Nature publication. Upon completing his post-doctoral research, Van Doren accepted a position at Johns Hopkins University where he has continued his Drosophila research. He received the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences award shortly after starting as a principal investigator, an award that provided him validation as a young researcher. Throughout the interview Van Doren discussed his current research, the challenges of running a laboratory, and funding.

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