Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Michael J. Overduin

  • 2005-Feb-08 – 2005-Feb-09

Michael J. Overduin was born in Ontario, Canada, the second oldest of five children. Overduin's father received master's degrees in English and music and was a teacher who traveled around Ontario to develop new programs at various schools—in music, English, and theater; in addition, he was well-respected in musical communities, especially those associated with churches, he put out several CDs, and, later in life, became a professor (without a PhD). Overduin's mother was a teacher as well, before having her children, and musically inclined too—classical music was a mainstay of the Overduin household. As a child Overduin was interested in music (though never performed) and art, and he appreciated the creativity of science. His interests and his parents' belief in education cultivated his love of biology and nature; influential teachers in school and early laboratory experiences proved formative as well. Overduin matriculated at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada and pursued a major in biology and a minor in mathematics. While in college he completed a thesis with Bernard Glick on the transformation of Pseudomonas aeroginosa and Esherichia coli by electroporation. After receiving his baccalaureate of science, he chose to attend Rockefeller University for graduate studies in structural biology, working in the laboratory of David Cowburn. Overduin's graduate work used nuclear magnetic resonance to determine the structure of a signal transduction protein; additionally, he worked with David Baltimore. For his postdoctoral fellowship, he worked with Mitsuhiko Ikuraat the University of Toronto and focused on the structural protein cadherin and its involvement in cell adhesion. After his time in Toronto, he accepted a position at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and began research on the domain structure of receptors involved in endocytosis. He also assisted in establishing an NMR spectroscopy facility and biomolecular structure program while there. After several years at Colorado, he moved to the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, helping build the NMR spectroscopy facility there, and continuing his research on complex systems and protein domains of therapeutic targets. The interview concludes with Overduin's thoughts on his laboratory management style; the process of writing journal articles; the issue of patents; the role of the scientist in educating the public about science; setting the national science agenda; recruiting foreign students as science graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the United States; and balancing his career and time with his family. Overduin's oral history ends with his reflections on the impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences on his research and what he likes most about being a principal investigator.

Access this interview

By request 1 PDF Transcript File and 8 Audio Recording Files

Fill out a brief form to receive immediate access to these files.

If you have any questions about transcripts, recordings, or usage permissions, contact the Center for Oral History at

PDF — 299 KB