Oral history interview with Peter G. Gillespie

  • 2001-Aug-01 – 2001-Aug-03

Peter G. Gillespie was born in Seattle, Washington in 1958; the elder of two brothers. Both Gillespie's mother, who came from Idaho, and his father, who came from Washington, attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where they were mathematics majors. His father worked for several computer companies during the early days of the industry. Gillespie was an avid reader of books throughout his youth; he also became very involved in outdoor activities such as bicycling, hiking, and rock-climbing. He credits his love of the outdoors and some important high school influences for his love of the sciences. Gillespie received his Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Reed College in 1981. Initially he struggled with the course load at Reed and contemplated alternative career paths. It was during his fellowship studying photoreceptors at the Neurological Science Institute that he became interested in neuroscience. Following graduation he worked for two years as a lab technician and decided to apply to graduate school. Gillespie matriculated into the Graduate Pharmacology Program at the University of Washington, where he did he research in Joseph A. Beavo's lab. He received his PhD in 1988. He also met and married his wife, Susan K. H. Gillespie, when he was a graduate student. Gillespie accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of California, San Francisco in James Hudspeth's lab only to have to move with Hudspeth a year later to his new lab at the University of Texas Southwest in Dallas, Texas. With Hudspeth, Gillespie began to focus his research on the molecular characterization of auditory hair cells. In 1993 Gillespie was appointed Assistant Professor in the Physiology Department at Johns Hopkins University, which was under new leadership. Unfortunately, after several years the program was not achieving the goals for which Gillespie had hoped; as a result he opted in 1999 to accept a position as an associate professor at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. Gillespie now carries out his research at the Vollum Institute, where he studies auditory hair cell signal transduction and the implications of different myosin isozymes on this complex physiological process. Throughout the oral history Gillespie emphasizes the importance of keeping experiments simple and sharing all scientific discovery. Gillespie has won several awards, including a postdoctoral fellowship, NIH grants, and the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant that he discusses in the oral history.

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