My profession for the last 35 years of my career was as Professor of Pathology and Immunology at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri. I was very fortunate in my career to be able to pursue my academic interests in a rather unorthodox manner. My undergraduate degree from Michigan State University focused mainly on mathematics, which intrigued me due to the logical progression of conclusions. Mathematical approaches stimulated my interest in genetics and I graduated with my PhD from the University of Michigan in human genetics in 1975. At this time, genetic approaches were allowing seminal breakthroughs in our understanding of immune pathways of pathogen detection. With this interest, I pursued postdoctoral training at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, advancing to a senior staff fellow.
During this time, I married my wife Janet Connolly, who was finishing her PhD in microbiology at George Washington University while also working at NIH. As my first appointment as an independent investigator, I worked at the newly developed Immunology Department at the Merck Institute of Therapeutic Research in New Jersey, advancing to Associate Director of Immunology.
Missing the academic environment, in 1983 I accepted a tenured faculty position at Washington University Medical School. Wash U. was a great place to do science due to its strong commitment to medical research and interactive faculty.
My fascination with science was elucidating molecular pathways of how the immune system detects pathogens and tumors. In many of the investigations, Janet and I worked together, she with expertise in microbiology and cell culture, me with expertise in cell biology and biochemistry. We were also incredibly fortunate to have several extremely talented scientists train in our combined laboratories. Our research resulted in the publication of about 180 journal articles, reviews, and chapters. These studies were supported by competitive grants from NIH, ACS, and private research foundations. I was also a member of the Faculty of 1000 allowing me highlight papers of particular interest in immunology.
Perhaps the most exciting future implications of our final studies were new approaches for vaccine development. For example, we developed and patented a novel approach to target a specific antigen for activation of immune cells to pathogens and cancer. We also worked with a team of Wash U. scientists making personalized tumor vaccines by sequencing the DNA of patient’s tumor to specifically identify which antigens to target for vaccination.
In 2014, Janet and I retired to the Washington DC area to be close to our children Kevin and Kathryn, and Kristen from a previous marriage. A recent bonus was the birth of our granddaughter Bethany (Kevin’s and wife Heather’s daughter). We also have extended family living nearby as well as a family beach house in Bethany Beach, Delaware. This proximity to family has already been extremely rewarding, for providing help and participating in frequent family events.