Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Chemical and Systems Biology and Radiology at Stanford University. She is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Carolyn received her undergraduate training in Chemistry at Harvard University and was awarded her PhD in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. She went on to complete postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Francisco and then accepted a faculty position at UC, Berkeley. Carolyn just recently joined the faculty at Stanford in 2015. She is the recipient of the UCSF 150th Anniversary Alumni Excellence Award, the Hans Bloemendal Award from Radboud University, the Heinrich Wieland Prize, the Royal Society of Chemistry Organic Division Bioorganic Chemistry Award, the Lemelson-MIT Prize for Inventors, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and many other national and international awards and honors. In addition, Carolyn is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Carolyn is with us today to tell us all about her journey through life and science.
People Behind the Science Podcast Show Notes
Life Outside of Science (02:45)
Carolyn has three young boys ages 2, 4, and 6 years old. She keeps busy when she’s outside of the lab taking them to swimming lessons, gymnastics, and out to the movies.
The Scientific Side (03:30)
Carolyn’s research combines chemistry and biology. Her lab develops tools from chemistry that can be used to study biology with the goal of ultimately creating new molecules that can cure diseases and help us live better, healthier lives.
A Dose of Motivation (04:15)
“Just keep swimming.” -Dory from Finding Nemo
What Got You Hooked on Science? (05:44)
As a kid, Carolyn remembers playing with the gadgets, electronics, and computers that her father (a Professor of Physics at MIT) would bring home. He wanted all three of his daughters to go into science, but Carolyn was more interested in music. She played piano, had a college band, and seriously considered being a professional musician. Carolyn took her parents advice to give science a try, and when she took her first organic chemistry course in college, she knew she made the right choice. Organic chemistry was a perfect fit.
The Low Points: Failures and Challenges (32:12)
When Carolyn started as a new faculty member, she struggled to manage and mentor students. She took on several new students her first year, thinking they would all be exactly like her. However, she quickly found out this was not the case, and it took her a while to figure out how to be a good mentor.
A Shining Success! (36:33)
Many of Carolyn’s important successes are the successes of her students. It has been really rewarding to work with students and help them in their careers. Carolyn has a growing network of graduated students and now the students working in their labs that has become almost like a family. Seeing many of her former students at the most recent American Chemical Society meeting and reflecting on their time together was wonderful.
Book Recommendations (45:30)
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Most Treasured Travel (38:22)
Carolyn was invited once to give a series of lectures across different cities in Australia including Sydney, Queensland, and others. The places she visited were beautiful, the people were friendly, and the science was superb. Another memorable travel opportunity brought her to Williams College in Massachusetts for a high school summer mentorship program called the Catalyst Program. Scientists, artists, and high school students worked together on various projects and learned about different forms of science and art.
Quirky Traditions and Funny Memories (42:36)
Many years ago, Carolyn attended the Gordon Natural Products Conference that brought together a diverse group of organic and synthetic chemists. There was a tradition of enjoying a rock band jam session after the conference, but they keyboardist wasn’t able to make it. Carolyn ended up filling in last minute, and it was a lot of fun. She has also shared many fantastic memories with her lab, including a singing birthday telegram, a lab trip to Las Vegas, and more.
Advice For Us All (51:16)
You have to talk to a lot of people to hear a lot of different perspectives. Find the perspective that resonates with you. Don’t worry about impressing people with your knowledge or accomplishments. Instead, focus on doing what you can to help other people.
Carolyn’s lab studies cell surface interactions that contribute to human health and disease with specific projects in the areas of cancer, inflammation and bacterial infection. She uses the techniques of organic synthesis, genetics, and biochemistry as tools to study and manipulate complex cellular processes. Much of her research involves cell surface oligosaccharides, biopolymers that contribute to cell surface recognition and cell-cell communication.