Chapter 02: Graduate School, Immersion in Developmental Biology, and Transition to Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson

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Chapter 02: Graduate School, Immersion in Developmental Biology, and Transition to Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson

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Description

In this chapter, Dr. Brock sketches the development of his scientific and research interests during his graduate program at Yale University. He first covers what he found intriguing about the field as it evolved in the 1970s, and the focusing of his research interests on isozymes and early studies of gene regulation of hormones. His explains that no one was looking at the role of isozymes in the reproductive systems of male mice, and he began to focus on this. His attempts to describe the cells in the mouse testicle led him to the work of Marvin Meistrich [oral history interview] at MD Anderson, and his decision to come to this institution for his postdoctoral work, during which time his focus shifted from developmental biology to radiation and side effects. He describes his research focus and notes that when he began looking for a job, a position opened up in Experimental Radiation Oncology.

Identifier

BrockW_01_20181204_C02

Publication Date

12-4-2018

Publisher

The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Educational Path; Joining MD Anderson; Overview; The Researcher; Definitions, Explanations, Translations; Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research

Transcript

[Redacted]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Who was the person who was your...? Bill Brock, PhD Clement Markert, C-L-E-M-E-R-T. Clement Markert, M-A-R-K-E-R-T. He was [well known for his discovery of isozymes. At the time his laboratory was working in reproductive biology.] [ ] Redacted Bill Brock, PhD I liked the laboratory work, but the problems were really interesting back in those days. In the ’70s [little was known about how] genes were regulated, but [the mechanisms of how hormones were regulating gene expression was a hot topic, and reproductive hormone biology was an important part of that issue.] [ ] So that was the area I wanted to work in. [redacted]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] So what did you...? Did you have a specific research project you were working on from the beginning, or how did that all evolve? Bill Brock, PhD [The program is designed such that you don’t work with your] professor right away. You first go to other laboratories to broaden your experience in biology research. I went to [spend a few months in] a laboratory that studied insect [endocrinology].

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, interesting. Bill Brock, PhD And they were interested in particularly the Monarch butterfly. I didn’t really enjoy working with insects. [laughter]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I was going to say! Like, I hadn’t heard about that pathway! Bill Brock, PhD But in the lab were several postdocs and students. There were all these insect nerds, and they loved insects, and they particularly loved monarch butterflies. And the first assignment that he gave someone in the fall was to take a monarch larva and stay up all night watching it emerge into a butterfly, and then come back the next day and give a play-by-play report on it [in a lab meeting]. Now, I remember that the first time I saw that happen was a postdoc from Japan had spent the whole night watching this, and had the most beautiful descriptions of everything that happened during that emergence, and I think that’s how he got his students turned on [to study insects].

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s very cool. Bill Brock, PhD Yes, that was interesting.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. A little moment of art and science together there, beauty of science. Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Very cool. Bill Brock, PhD [ ] [It was very interesting, but] I was only in that lab for a few months. I did a study on hormones, though. See, that’s the reason I kind of liked it. Insects have a sex hormone called ecdysone.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What is it? Bill Brock, PhD [laughs] [ ] It’s a steroid [hormone that has something to do with molting.] [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

D-Y-S-O-N. Okay, I’ll look it up online, yeah. Bill Brock, PhD [ ] They also studied pheromones, which are sex attractants [ ]. I didn’t do any work on pheromones, but I did work on developing an assay for measuring ecdysone in insects.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s cool. [laughter] So when did you transition to what you really wanted to focus on? How long did that take? Bill Brock, PhD After the first year, I moved into Professor Markert’s laboratory. [ ] [He had just build a new laboratory with a grant from the Ford Foundation.] [ ] The Ford Foundation funded a lot of work in reproductive biology. [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] ? Bill Brock, PhD I got interested in isozymes [ ]. [ ] I was doing experiments on isozyme development in mice and had read some papers about some work in the male reproductive system. [ ] and made a proposal [to Professor Markert] and started a study on isozyme expression during the development of the mouse reproductive system and spermatogenesis. [ In particular, I was interested in whether or not genes were expressed in late stages of spermatogenesis when the developing sperm had a haploid level of DNA. In 1976, when that work was completed, I began to search for a post-doctoral position. I was familiar with the work of Marvin Meistrich [oral history interview], at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute, who was an expert in spermatogenesis and had developed methodology for separating the many different types of spermatogenic cells into separate populations. He offered me a position and so I planned to go to Texas for a couple of years and then look for a faculty position. Marvin turned out to be a brilliant scientist who made many important contributions to the understanding of the male reproductive system from both a clinical and basic science prospective (see his interview on this website). I worked with Marvin for two years on the developmental biology of proteins that are found only in developing spermatocytes. During this time, I developed an interest in Radiation Biology. As it turned out, the Department of Experimental Radiotherapy, as it was then known, was well known worldwide for outstanding research in basic and clinical radiation biology. When I started interviewing for a faculty position, the department chair, Rodney Withers, offered me a job as Assistant Professor. I accepted and spent the rest of my career there.] [ ] [ ] My main research [interest in radiation biology was in individual differences in the sensitivity of tumor and normal cells to radiation and the development of assays that could be used to predict] the radiation effects on normal cells—in other words, side effects, and could would predict which patients are most likely to have these catastrophic reactions to radiation. Because there must be a genetic difference in people’s sensitivity. [ ] [To develop a method to determine] who is most likely to be sensitive to that [ ] and steer them to a different treatment. [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, interesting. Bill Brock, PhD Yeah.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Huh. So what was that shift like? I mean, tell me how you contacted Marvin Meistrich. Bill Brock, PhD Well, I was study... Yeah. Oh, I—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, all of that, and— Bill Brock, PhD I wrote him a letter.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, you did. It reminds you of different days, huh? Bill Brock, PhD I wrote him a letter [ ] [describing my background and interests and asking him for a post-doc position] [laughter]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

“Hey, by the way, love your work.” Bill Brock, PhD He liked that. And, no, he wrote back right away and offered me a job. [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s very cool. Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh. In experimental— Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now, tell me— Bill Brock, PhD [ ]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

[ ] Bill Brock, PhD Yeah, I think he was fine with that. Yeah.

Conditions Governing Access

Redacted

Chapter 02: Graduate School, Immersion in Developmental Biology, and Transition to Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson

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