Chapter 02: New Work on Photoimmunology; Reflections on Mentors and Inspirations

Title

Chapter 02: New Work on Photoimmunology; Reflections on Mentors and Inspirations

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Description

Research: Photoimmunology

Identifier

KripkeM_01_20071213_C02

Publication Date

12-13-2017

Publisher

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

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

Professional Path; Evolution of Career; Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine; Influences from People and Life Experiences; The History of Health Care, Patient Care; The Researcher; Personal Background

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

It's getting pulled at both sides. So you started in Frederick, about the same time as Dr. Fidler, or he came later?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I came a few months before but basically, we started at the same time.

Lesley W. Brunet

And tell me again what you were doing.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

We were both laboratory directors. We were hired to initiate new laboratories, in a new -- this was a new cancer center that actually was on the Fort Detrick property. Fort Detrick was an Army biological warfare research place historically, and under the Nixon Administration, they decided to make it into a cancer center. And so we were the first people to actually go there to set up research programs on the Frederick campus.

Lesley W. Brunet

How was Frederick?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

We loved it, because it was a small town. It's rural Maryland, it was beautiful.

Lesley W. Brunet

I've lived in Maryland.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

And we loved the lifestyle. My daughter could walk to school. I was two minutes away from the house, so if I needed to go home to do something or if I had a sick kid or whatever, it was very convenient. We liked living in a small town and the atmosphere. We had a lot of fun in those days. Eventually, actually my mother moved there from California and bought a small house in Frederick, and so that really solved my travel problems.

Lesley W. Brunet

Help.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah. So she was there for five of the eight years that we lived in Maryland, and so that was an enormous help.

Lesley W. Brunet

So you were there for eight years?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Mm hmm.

Lesley W. Brunet

And you were working in immunology?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Mm hmm.

Lesley W. Brunet

Can you tell me a little bit about what you were doing? I saw an article in '77.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah. I had started the work in Salt Lake City. I had worked on a project that involved reducing skin cancers with ultraviolet light. And being an immunologist, I was interested in studying immunology of those cancers. It was not part of the project I was hired to do, but it was something that I was doing on the side. And it turned out that those skin cancers had very, very interesting and unusual immunology properties, and investigating that really formed the basis of the entire rest of my career, because my whole career has been focused on skin cancer and the immunology of skin cancer, and the effects of ultraviolet light on the skin and on the immune cells in the skin, which is part of the whole pathogenesis of skin cancer. So I continued that work.

Lesley W. Brunet

So in the beginning, when you were doing immunology, you were already focused on skin cancer and working with cancer?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah, even my PhD thesis was immunology and cancer. It wasn't on skin cancer at the time, but my whole career has been spent on cancer and immunology.

Lesley W. Brunet

I should back up and ask what I meant to. When you were growing up in California and even in school, is anyone in your family in science or medicine?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

No. My father was an avid naturalist and it probably comes from there, but I just -- I really love biology. I have always loved biology. When I learned about research and the process of doing research and asking and answering scientific questions, that was what really captured my attention.

Lesley W. Brunet

I can relate to that with research. Did your family have a history of cancer, or did that have any role?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

No.

Lesley W. Brunet

So it was more like an intellectual issue?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I was interested in biology. I probably would have been very happy in any aspect of biology. The way that I ended up in immunology was -- it's actually kind of an interesting story. When I was in my junior year at Berkeley, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. It was clear that my grades were not going to be good enough to get me into medical school. It was very tough for women to go to medical school in those days.

Lesley W. Brunet

You were coming out of Berkeley?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I was not at the top of my class, and so I was really quite -- I was really floundering. I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I took a course -- during the course of things, I took an introductory course in bacteriology, and the two professors who taught that course wrote letters to all the students who had done well in the class. I did get an A in that class. They wrote letters to all the students who had done well in the class, asking them what they were going to do with their lives and would they -- and inviting us to come and talk with them about our career. It was very unusual. It was at a time at Berkeley when there was a lot of concern that professors were only interested in graduate students and they weren't interested in undergraduates, and that undergraduates were somehow being neglected. And the other thing that was going on historically was that that was the height of the Sputnik -- post-Sputnik era, where there was a lot of money available to people in science, in all aspects of science.

And so I went to meet with the professors. I was very interested in input one of them was doing, the immunologist was doing, and he was the immunology and cancer person and he said, why don't you go to graduate school, and I said, “Great, what's that? Tell me about that.” And so I ended up going to graduate school and I was his graduate student, and he is the one who got invited to Israel. So that's how --

Lesley W. Brunet

And his name?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

David Weiss.

Lesley W. Brunet

W-E-I-S-S?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Mm hmm. He went to be head chairman of the Immunology Department at the medical school in Jerusalem. And so I probably could have been happy in any aspect of biology, but that was my opportunity and I liked it a lot. The cancer issue resonated with me. It was an interesting biology problem, immunology was a very interesting biology infusion, and so I simply stayed there for the whole rest of my career.

Lesley W. Brunet

Were there other people, when you were growing up, that influenced your life toward science?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I grew up in a very small town in California, but we had very good teachers in our school. I had lots of high school teachers who were terrific. I had a sixth grade science teacher who was wonderful. So I was influenced a lot by teachers.

Lesley W. Brunet

Public or private school?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Public. Yeah, public school.

Lesley W. Brunet

That's always nice to see.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah. I suspect it was a very unusual community, because it had very high level teaching. I actually --

Lesley W. Brunet

What was the name of the town?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Healdsburg. H-E-A-L-D-S-B-U-R-G. Healdsburg, California. It's in Sonoma County, the Russian River area. I was actually encouraged to apply for some summer programs, summer science programs, by one of my high school teachers, and did so and was accepted into a program for future scientists that was sponsored by the National Science Foundation. So I spent a summer going to a program at Santa Clara University and studying science of all kinds, but it was focusing on biology.

Lesley W. Brunet

And do you think that kind of extra opportunities made a difference in your career?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I think I would have ended up where I ended up anyway. The thing that really influenced my career were the professors who said what are you doing with your life and do you want to come and talk to me about it. That was a huge turning point in my career.

Lesley W. Brunet

And were they really doing it because of the idea that professors weren't reaching out to undergraduates?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I think so, yeah, yeah.

Lesley W. Brunet

OK, so we're back in Frederick and you work at NCI, it went well, from what I can see.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yes. They had lots of resources and we did lots of -- we really did a lot of science during that period.

Lesley W. Brunet

Were you aware of MD Anderson when you were at the NCI in Frederick?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I'd been aware of MD Anderson for a very long time, primarily because of the annual symposium on all cancer research. I'm trying to think which meeting I went to. When I was still in Salt Lake City, I came to one of the MD Anderson symposia. It was on immunology and cancer, about 1972. Actually it was just as I was coming to Salt Lake City. It was who’s who in cancer and immunology. So I knew about the institution and met some of the people, who were here at that time. So yeah, I knew about MD Anderson from that series of scientific meetings.

Lesley W. Brunet

So that would have been -- Dr. [Gunn?

was working with immunology.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah, Dr. (inaudible).

Lesley W. Brunet

Were there other?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I think it was primarily immunology.

Lesley W. Brunet

What did you think about interferon?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I didn't like it.

Lesley W. Brunet

Went to Anderson. OK, this was too early.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

So yeah, I knew of MD Anderson when I was in Frederick. And of course by then, we also knew other people. Garth Nicolson was a collaborator of Josh's, and we knew Fred Leffert from scientific meetings. He was of course in carcinogenesis. There were fewer scientific meetings in those days, and so we would meet people from all over, at things like the Gordon Conference on Cancer. Both Josh and I were chairs of that meeting.

Lesley W. Brunet

I'm sorry, what was the name of it?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Gordon Conference on Cancer.

Lesley W. Brunet

And where was that held?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Generally in New Hampshire.

Lesley W. Brunet

So I assume you got to know more of the leading people, because if there were fewer meetings.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Right, few meetings, and people stayed for the whole meeting.

Lesley W. Brunet

Would they always stay for the whole meeting?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

They did in those days, yeah.

Lesley W. Brunet

That's where I see my friends.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

And the MD Anderson symposium was another one that was -- when it was on a topic of interest, was another one that was very well attended from outside of the institution. Now there are so many meetings, it's hard to get anybody to go to anything, because there are just too many other opportunities.

Lesley W. Brunet

Is it because they are so much more specialized now?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

No, I think it's just because there is a huge proliferation. You could go to a meeting a week if you wanted.

Lesley W. Brunet

So what about the -- I'm trying to think of what they call it. Photosynthesis, that's not it. The whole part of the sun and immunology; you already were studying that?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I was. The only reason I was studying photobiology was because it's what caused skin cancer. That was one of the models that was being used in Salt Lake City. There was actually a hint in the literature when I was writing my PhD thesis. I wrote a whole review on immunology and cancer, and there's actually a sentence in my thesis that says that skin cancer is induced by ultraviolet light and it might be immunologically interesting and it would be interesting to look at the effects of ultraviolet light on the immune system. It was really not a totally naïve statement, but it turned out to be exactly correct, and so I had the opportunity to actually do that when I went to Salt Lake City. And so that's where my interest in photobiology came from, actively in photobiology.

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Chapter 02: New Work on Photoimmunology; Reflections on Mentors and Inspirations

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