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Oral history interview with Marla B. Luskin

  • 1990-Mar-06

Oral history interview with Marla B. Luskin

  • 1990-Mar-06

Marla Luskin grew up in the San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles, California, one of three children. Her father was a plumber and her mother a housewife. Neither of her parents valued the need for higher education, especially for a daughter. All three children have advanced degrees, nonetheless, perhaps in part because of an uncle’s encouragement. Always interested in science, Luskin was able to work in a lab while in high school. Luskin began college at University of California, Irvine, but transferred to Berkeley to work in Gerald Westheimer’s lab, majoring in psychobiology (later called neurobiology). She refers to Westheimer as her “science father”.

After graduation Luskin took a year off to work and save money for graduate school, but she attended seminars and read to keep up with her science. She admired Viktor Hamburger’s work and decided on Washington University in St. Louis (Wash U.) for her PhD. Her dissertation dealt with the organization of connectivity in the olfactory system. Next she looked for a postdoctoral position in developmental neurobiology, entering Carla Shatz’s lab at Stanford University. She discovered a cell population that is found in the developing cerebral cortex before birth but gone after birth; called the subplate, this group of cells is unprecedented in the nervous system. Unfortunately, Luskin could not take the subplate work with her to Simon LeVay’s physiology lab at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

After a short time Luskin went back to Wash U. to Joshua Sanes’s lab. After recovering from a serious illness, Luskin decided to look for a job, consulting the ads in Science. She was offered an assistant professorship at Emory University, where she has now been for a year. She had a small startup package, but she has garnered a number of grants. Her lab is smaller than she would like but is scheduled to enlarge. She loves all the challenges she has found in her new position, though she would like to teach somewhat less, and is very happy at Emory. She works long hours and expects to continue to do so, hoping one day to understand which genes regulate development and how they do it.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 21 pages
  • 01:10:00
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received MA and PhD degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0776

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • December 17, 1952
  • Pasadena, California, United States
  • 2021


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1974 University of California, Berkeley BA Neurobiology
1981 Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine PhD Neural Sciences

Professional Experience

Stanford University

  • 1981 to 1984 Post Doctorate, Neurobiology

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

  • 1984 to 1986 Post Doctorate, Neurobiology

Washington University School of Medicine

  • 1986 to 1988 Post Doctorate, Neurobiology

Emory University

  • 1988 to 1990 Assistant Professor, Anatomy and Cell Biology


Year(s) Award
1975 to 1977 Washington University School of Medicine Division Fellowship
1977 to 1978 Sloan Foundation Fellowship
1978 to 1981 Institutional Pre-doctoral NIH Training Fellowship, Washington University
1981 to 1984 Institutional Post-doctoral NIH Training Fellowship, Stanford University
1986 to 1987 Grant from the McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine
1989 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

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PDF — 549 KB

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

2 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads