Chapter 01: Northern California in the Sixties and Tracking into the Sciences

Title

Chapter 01: Northern California in the Sixties and Tracking into the Sciences

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Description

Personal and educational background

Identifier

KripkeM_01_20071213_C01

Publication Date

12-13-2017

Publisher

The Historical Resources Center, Research Medical Library, The University of Texas Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

Personal Background; Educational Path; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Influences from People and Life Experiences; Experiences Related to Gender, Race, Ethnicity

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Lesley W. Brunet

This is Lesley Williams Brunet, about to record an oral history interview with Dr. Margaret Kripke. The date is December 13, 2007. This interview will be conducted in Dr. Kripke's office, on the south campus, at the SCR-2 Building I believe. The interview is being recorded for the MD Anderson Cancer Center oral history project, which is part of the Historical Resources Center at the Research Medical Library at UT, MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I was born in California and went through school there. In fact, I lived in the same town from kindergarten through the end of high school, and then went to the University of California at Berkeley, which was only about 70 miles away.

Lesley W. Brunet

So you lived in the northern part?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Northern California, mm hmm.

Lesley W. Brunet

I noticed in something I was reading about you, that you always wanted to be a scientist?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I have always been interested in biology, and at one point I thought perhaps I would want to go to medical school, and it just wasn't quite the thing that women did in those days. And so I went to university and studied all kinds of biology, and ended up going to graduate school, and I absolutely fell in love with research. It fit with my real love of biology, nature and so on. I like the rigor of science and I like the solving problems and puzzles through science, and so it's been a wonderful career for me.

Lesley W. Brunet

You got your PhD at Berkeley as well?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yes.

Lesley W. Brunet

So you went all the way through at Berkeley?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yes. The last two years that I was there actually, my thesis advisor immigrated to Israel, so I actually lived in Jerusalem for two years, for the last two years of my graduate program. I actually did my thesis research in Jerusalem.

Lesley W. Brunet

Is that where you met Dr. Fidler [oral history interview]?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

No.

Lesley W. Brunet

I don't know anything about that.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

We never knew each other in Israel. We met here many years later.

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh, here?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

We met in the United States years later.

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh okay, because you were married when you came here.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

That's correct.

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh that's unusual, two years. And what years were they? What years did you --

Margaret Kripke, PhD

1968 to 1970. I became pregnant while I was there also, and so I came home from Israel with a PhD and a baby. So my daughter was actually born in Jerusalem.

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh. I didn't know you had any children. What's it like to be pregnant and have a child when you're working on your PhD dissertation?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Well I was pretty much finished with the work and I did still have some writing to do. I came home from the hospital and finished the writing, but that was -- it was timed well, because I didn't start my postdoctoral work until after we came back from Israel. We took some months off and traveled around before I actually went back to work. So it was a particularly convenient time for me to have a baby, take time and have a baby.

Lesley W. Brunet

When you say we, you and the baby?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I was married to another -- someone else.

Lesley W. Brunet

Someone else. Oh see, I didn't know that.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Kripke is the name of my first husband actually.

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh really?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yes.

Lesley W. Brunet

I don't know if I'll marry again, but that's how it will all end up. And so '68 through '70, going to school in Berkeley in the 60s must have been interesting.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I did do Berkeley in the 60s, yes. It was extremely interesting. It was the time of the great free speech movement. It was actually the time of civil rights, a major civil rights movement and later on, the Vietnam War was the big issue. So there were many political issues. It's kind of amazing to me in retrospect, that I actually got degrees during this period, because there were so many distractions.

Lesley W. Brunet

The music, the whole Haight-Ashbury scene.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yes, yes.

Lesley W. Brunet

Do you get flashbacks when you go down doctor, what used to be doctor, Zwelling's Hall, where it had those posters. I was so excited when I saw those.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

That's my era.

Lesley W. Brunet

I'm trying to get them to preserve them. I just really -- I think they were fantastic. I'm just a little bit behind. Okay, so you came back and then -- you came back from Jerusalem, you traveled around for a while, and then you went to work in Ohio?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Ohio State, yeah. It had been my choice to go to Israel, and my husband, who was an assistant professor of mathematics at Berkeley, took two years off to finish writing a book that he was writing and decided he actually would leave mathematics. So he was retraining in a new field. So when we came back, it was his turn to choose where we were going to go, so he wanted to go to a laboratory in Ohio State, so that's how I ended up there.

Lesley W. Brunet

So that taking turns really works?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Um… (sighs).

Lesley W. Brunet

Sorry. Maybe this isn't a good line of questions but I can't help it.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

It's a difficult question. The taking turns worked for us for a while, but of course I ended up not being married to that person, so I don't know whether to say that it worked or it didn't work. It's very difficult because it often happens that there is one job, not two, and that's what happened to us when we left Ohio State and we went to Salt Lake City. I had a faculty position at the University of Utah Medical School and he kind of had constructed a position for himself there, but I was the one who was actually recruited to Salt Lake City.

Lesley W. Brunet

And you were teaching biology, or by that time you were more specialized?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I was an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology, and I was doing research in immunology.

Lesley W. Brunet

You were there -- I'm not sure if it said how long you were in Utah.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

'72 to '74.

Lesley W. Brunet

And then you went to NCI in '75?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah, and leaving the husband in Salt Lake City.

Lesley W. Brunet

How'd you like living in Salt Lake City?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I loved it. It's a beautiful place. It's absolutely gorgeous, you know even winter. I don't like winter particularly, having come from California, but the winter there is beautiful because the sun shines and there's snow on the ground and it's really quite gorgeous.

Lesley W. Brunet

Having the sun shining makes a difference.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah. You know, it's not gray and slushy like the Midwest.

Lesley W. Brunet

Ohio?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah.

Lesley W. Brunet

It depends on where you were. I was east of Cleveland.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Ohio was really difficult for me.

Lesley W. Brunet

It was really difficult for me too.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Particularly after Berkeley in the 60s.

Lesley W. Brunet

We moved to Ohio in '70. I spent three years of high school there, in the snow belt. I never wanted to return.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah, likewise.

Lesley W. Brunet

So you went by yourself, with your daughter or who?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

With my daughter. During that period, -- I actually met Josh during that period. We were both invited to an American Cancer Society sponsored science writers meeting in Florida, and that's where we met. It turned out that we decided we wanted to find a place to go together. He was in Philadelphia, I was in Salt Lake City. So we were both offered jobs independently of each other, in this new cancer center that was opened by the National Cancer Institute. And so we went to work in Frederick and my daughter, who was four at the time, went with us.

Lesley W. Brunet

So you still had childcare duties while you were a faculty --

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Oh yeah. I was a single parent for about a year. It was difficult enough that I have a lot of sympathy for single parents.

Lesley W. Brunet

It is tricky. That's something I might want to touch on again when we talk about women in research.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yes. A single parent assistant professor is a tough call.

Lesley W. Brunet

Do you think having children holds people -- not holds them back, but women don't move as quickly in their careers if they have a family too, or if they have children too?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I think it affects different people different ways. Yeah, I do think it impedes career progress, even in my case, where I was a dedicated professional and I did not ever really stay home; it was the childcare dues. There were times when I could not travel because of my childcare responsibilities. I simply couldn't go to scientific meetings, which certainly does impede your progress and your visibility in the scientific community. So it has to have some kind of an impact, unless you have live-in help, so that you have complete freedom to do all those other things. It is a deterrent to progress for a period of time.

Lesley W. Brunet

I used to interview a lot of faculty at Baylor. When I first moved to Houston, I came to the TMC and many of the women I interviewed started there in the late 40s and 50s, and they would talk about just how difficult it was. But our whole society has changed in a way, so it may be easier for single parents now sort of, or we're just getting used to it.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

But the travel issue is still a problem. I have seen many women in recent years, bringing children to some national center (inaudible), but it's very difficult. It's still very difficult.

Lesley W. Brunet

And is it looked down upon?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

No, I don't think so, but it restricts your mobility.

Lesley W. Brunet

At the meeting?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Mm hmm. Part of the purpose of going to those meetings is to network and to spend time seeing colleagues and talking science. So yeah, I think it does. It's better than not going at all, but it's not like going by yourself.

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Chapter 01: Northern California in the Sixties and Tracking into the Sciences

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