Jenny Pickworth Glusker

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ORAL HISTORIES
Jenny Pickworth Glusker

Credit: Fox Chase Cancer Center

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:

Interview of Jenny Glusker by David Zierler on March 5, 2020,Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/XXXX

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AIP Oral Historian David Zierler interviews Dr. Jenny Glusker of the Fox Chase Cancer Center. 

Transcript

David Zierler:

OK. It is March 5th, 2020. This is David Zierler, oral historian for the American Institute of Physics. It's my great pleasure to be here with Dr. Jenny Glusker at her home in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. And let's just get started right from the beginning. Tell me a little bit about your birthplace, where you were born.

Jenny Glusker:

I was born in Birmingham, England, which is in the Midlands. It's an area—it's the beginning of what they call the "Black Country.” Black because of soot, from—

Zierler:

Coal?

Glusker:

—all the factories that they have. And Birmingham had a joke that if you went to India and you looked in a market and you looked at any tray or anything that looked nice, it would say, "Made in Birmingham" on the back.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

So it was a manufacturing area. But south of it is where I lived. Just in the suburbs to the south is absolutely wonderful scenery, Shakespeare country, the Cotswolds, farms, just, just gorgeous. So it's right on the edge of rural England. And I was born there.

Zierler:

And now, both of your parents have a science background, right?

Glusker:

They're both doctors. Yes. My mother was Scottish. She came from a family that's been Scottish forever. And one of her ancestors was chief physician to three czars of Russia.

Zierler:

Whoa!

Glusker:

He was a Scotsman. Sir James Wylie (1768-1854).

Zierler:

And your father?

Glusker:

My father was a doctor who came from Suffolk, which is on the east part of England. And his father was a doctor, and his great-grandfather was a doctor. And if they weren't doctors, or also if they were doctors, they were also Wesley Methodist preachers.

Zierler:

And for your mother, how unique was it that she was a woman physician at that time? Was she really the only one of her kind, or how common—

Glusker:

No, no.

Zierler:

—was that?

Glusker:

No, no. In the middle of World War I, most of the men were at the war front. And if a man was seen walking down the street he would be stopped and people would say, "Why aren't you over fighting in the—with the other men?" And he'd probably say, "Because I'm wounded." And that's why they had wounded uniforms finally. And then they thought, well, we need doctors and there are not enough men available for doctors because they've all been sent to the front to fight. And so they went to the girls' schools and pulled out all the really bright students, said, "You're going to medical school." So in 1916, she started in medical school. Well, of course, she graduated after the war had ended. She actually was very interested in France and the French, and would have loved to have been involved with French studies.

Zierler:

Culture you mean?

Glusker:

Yes, yes, yes. And that's what she loved. But the war came. She lost that opportunity.

Zierler:

So it was not necessarily—'cause I'm trying to understand your early influences as a woman going into the sciences. You weren’t necessarily looking at your mother as a path-breaking kind of person and you would follow in her footsteps. It doesn’t seem that that was necessarily your thinking as a woman going into the sciences.

Glusker:

Well, the City of Birmingham, and I think other cities in England, had a system that people now tell me is elitist, but I think it was a good one. That you should test children and see whether they should go to more academic schools or to schools where they also learn a craft. So that when they graduate, they can go straight to a job. So I didn't really think very much about all of this, because the war had already begun when I was young. I think I was 7 or 8 when the war began. I got into a really good school, and it just happened there was a very good chemistry teacher. And I just loved doing chemistry, and I'd already liked chemistry. Because I found my mother's college note books. She moved to England and got married. Well, she had a job for a long time, and then she married my father.

Zierler:

[laugh] Yes, of course.

Glusker:

So I had my chemistry set. And it was during the war so you couldn't go anywhere. You had to just stay in your house or go to school or to church. And that was about the limit of what you could do. So all the kids in our area got together and we would play together. And we all had chemistry sets and we would all set who could make the best green colored solution, that sort of thing. So I was interested in chemistry early on. And my father said, "If you really want to do something great that'll give you a lot of satisfaction, be a doctor." So he said, "Be a doctor. Be a doctor. Be a doctor." And my sister studied history. And he said, "That's not even a science." [laugh]

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

But I had very loving parents. I mean, I had a good life. And my father was very imaginative in some of the things he did during the war. He was older and, as a doctor, he had to stay in England (not be a soldier). And he did a lot of aircraft detection and that sort of thing. But he also put red—do you know what cellophane is, transparent stuff?

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

He put blue cellophane on all the windows, and we had red cellophane around all the lights. And so then he didn't have to have a curtain blackout, you see.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

And he built an air-raid shelter in the garden, which we would go into and—

Zierler:

For fun or because you really needed to?

Glusker:

Because we really needed it. We were bombed every night, yes. My mother, being the doctor she was, she kept a record of all the times of all the air raids. So that's kind of interesting. I don't think those exist elsewhere. If you looked in the newspaper at that time, they would never say Birmingham had been bombed. They would say—the raiders only got to the north—of the Midlands. Newspapers didn't want them to know if they had succeeded in what they planned. Very different kind of war from nowadays.

Zierler:

Of course.

Glusker:

Yes. So we—

Zierler:

So was there an expectation from your parents that you would enter into medicine, or was it more like they encouraged you along that path?

Glusker:

They encouraged me, but I think they kind of hoped—my fathered hoped—I'm not sure what my mother felt about it. She felt very strongly that childhood is a difficult time and so let children be children. And especially with having to deal with the war, not much to eat and having to sleep in an air-raid shelter being bombed and that sort of thing. So she didn't impose anything. But she encouraged me to do well in school

Zierler:

Of course.

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

And did you—

Glusker:

And you don't get into medical school unless you've done well in English and French and math and so on.

Zierler:

Right. Right. Did the war delay your education? Did you have to pause your education at all, or you followed a normal chronological course toward—

Glusker:

It seemed pretty normal to me. I mean, being a girl, I went to a girls' school. You didn't have a choice. I'm sure there were—I don't know if there were any schools that were coed.

Zierler:

Was it a religious school, a public school?

Glusker:

No, it was a public school (in the American sense of “public,” available to all by an entrtance examination. That school examined all the kids in the whole area of Birmingham and to see which school you should go to. So I went to a King Edward's School (King Edward VI High School, Edgbaston, Birmingham, founded in 1552 by King Edward VI son of King Henry VIII. The girl’s school was established in 1883), which was a really good school. And mostly women teachers, but very good ones, some of them. And my chemistry teacher had a doctorate. And the principal of the school was a woman and she also had a doctorate.

Zierler:

Do you remember the chemistry teacher's name?

Glusker:

Yes. Dr. Yvonne Mary Way (1916 - 2006).

Zierler:

Can you spell it?

Glusker:

W-A-Y.

Zierler:

OK. That'll be good for the archive. That's wonderful.

Glusker:

She was the daughter of a famous teacher from the North of England, a chemistry teacher (George William Westcote Way from Doncaster). And she had done some research, and she said, no, her interest was teaching. And we corresponded for the rest of her life.

Zierler:

Oh, really?

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

Did she offer any encouragement for your professional path?

Glusker:

Oh, yes, yes. A lot. And we wrote every year long letters about what I was doing and where I was.

Zierler:

Really?

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

Do you have any of the letters?

Glusker:

Yes. I have them all, yes.

Zierler:

Really?

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

In your personal possession or are they—

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

—with the manuscript collection?

Glusker:

No, no. They're in my personal collection.

Zierler:

OK. All right.

Glusker:

Yeah. But they were—and she would tell what the other teachers were doing.

Zierler:

Sure.

Glusker:

Who got married and who had kids and who—so on. But she was very pleased that I got into college, I was getting a bit tired of school, so I left a year early. And I said, "I'll apply to Oxford." And everyone said, "No, no, no, don't do that."

Zierler:

So you graduated early or—

Glusker:

I didn't graduate.

Zierler:

You didn't graduate?

Glusker:

Well, I did graduate in the end, but I left a year early. And I said, "I will apply to Oxford."

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

"And if I get in —" I said to my father, "If I can get into Oxford to study chemistry will that be OK?" And he said, "Yes. But if you don't, you'd better do medicine." So I applied to the University of Birmingham to go to medical school, and I got in. And then I applied to Oxford for chemistry. And I had to go down and take a practical exam and meet Dr. Dorothy Hodgkin, who was, as you probably know, a Nobel Prize winner. And I had chosen Somerville, because I looked to see which was the most bluestocking of the women’s colleges at Oxford.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

And I got in. All through my life, I've had a lot of luck. All sorts of odd things happen. I mean, it was crazy that I got in, but I got in.

Zierler:

So you enrolled in Oxford?

Glusker:

I enrolled in Oxford, yes. Why would I do anything else?

Zierler:

[laugh] With chemistry as your course of study from the beginning?

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

Was there a humanities component of the education? Did you have to take—could you do all science, or you had to take literature and.

Glusker:

I assume you are asking about school. In college I concentrated on chemistry.

Zierler:

—philosophy?

Glusker:

I had to do all of those. Geography, biology, mathematics, history. What can I say? Scripture. Scripture, because England considered it's a—at that time, anyway—a Church of England—area. I'm not Church of England, I'm Presbyterian through,— the Church of Scotland—is Presbyterian.

Zierler:

But your main interest never wavered from chemistry? That was always—

Glusker:

That's what I wanted to do, right?

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

Yeah. I just thought it was interesting how things happen. How things happen.

Zierler:

Right. Did you have a thesis as an undergraduate that you wrote or was there just a final exam? What were the requirements of—

Glusker:

Oh, no. We could—

Zierler:

—the degree?

Glusker:

The general study in Oxford—I was at Somerville College. And it's three years. And then you get an unlabeled degree, and then you have to do a year's research to finish the degree.

Zierler:

Mm-hmm.

Glusker:

So I did a year's research.

Zierler:

On campus?

Glusker:

In Oxford, yes. And that gives you full B.A. degree. You get a classification for your degree.

Zierler:

And this is lab work?

Glusker:

Lab work, yes. I got some Proceedings of the Royal Society papers with my name on them. And I was doing infrared spectroscopy.

Zierler:

For a scientific audience?

Glusker:

—what was your background, was it physics or—?

Zierler:

No. I'm a historian of science.

Glusker:

Oh, OK. Sorry. Yeah.

Zierler:

For the broader audience that's going to be interested in this interview, would you explain some technical concepts, such as infrared spectrometry?

Glusker:

My interest developed to X-ray crystallography. Well, at the time that I was studying, most molecules were drawn—their chemical formulae were drawn on a flat sheet of paper. So you could open the textbook and you'd see what the formula of this particular compound is. But, in fact, the molecule has three-dimensional qualities.

It was about 1912 that the experiment was done which showed that if you had a crystal and you shot an X-ray beam at it, you got a diffraction pattern. There were a many German scientists involved with that project. And they must have been very good physicists because they said, "Aha, if we get the diffraction pattern, we can work out what made that diffraction pattern." So the question was: How could you interpret the diffraction pattern, and you'll get a picture of what the molecule looks like? So that was one of the main interests, was finding out in three dimensions what molecules looked like. And that some of the formulae that people drew couldn't exist, because they had too many hydrogens all too near each other and so on. And if you're going to—thinking now from today, if you're thinking about a molecule approaching an enzyme, you're thinking in three dimensions and where will go and how will it interact? So knowing what molecules looked like—it was interesting. And the person who was doing some very interesting work in Oxford was using infrared spectroscopy. You would just shoot an infrared beam and analyze the spectrum. And if you did that very carefully, you could maybe work out something about the molecular shape and the molecular distances. So I did a very simple thing. I studied deuterium chloride, DCl, which is really hydrochloric acid HCl, with its hydrogen atom replaced by deuterium and determined the distance between the two atoms of the molecule. Then I went to look at more complicated molecules and I thought, oh, my goodness, this is too complicated using infrared radiation. And Dorothy Hodgkin was working on penicillin and so on. And I thought, maybe that's the way to go. So she said, "Well, let's do a joint kind of program."

Zierler:

And this is you moving on to graduate studies?

Glusker:

I'm now moving on to graduate studies.

Zierler:

So Dorothy maintained your—she was still your advisor going into graduate studies?

Glusker:

Yes, yes, yes. Well, I got a “first-class” degree in chemistry (like cum laude), which very few women had received.

Zierler:

And this is a coed environment, or this is still women only?

Glusker:

No. This is a coed environment. Living arrangements are in the colleges, but lectures, laboratory work and all examinations are mixed male and female in University buildings. So now they're mostly, if not all, coed. There are some women who like to go to a coed college.

Zierler:

Sure.

Glusker:

There weren't very many women chemists so I got a little bit of extra attention, you see. So I said to Dr. Hodgkin, "Well, I'll come and work with you for a while and learn how to do work with X-rays and crystals."

Zierler:

So it was Dorothy that you got interested more in health-science research with regard to chemistry?

Glusker:

I think that just came anyway. I mean, with a background of doctors when—

Zierler:

Right. Right. You naturally, on your own, you gravitated—

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

—in that direction?

Glusker:

Yes. Yeah, yeah. Well, she would—the interest at the time was not so much the health sciences. I mean, it was great that she did penicillin herself. But the interest was, how do you interpret the X-ray diffraction, the diffraction pattern? And how do you end up with a three-dimensional molecular structure? At that time it was not easy to study larger molecules.

Zierler:

Uh-huh. And finding the answer to that question, what is the practical value of knowing that?

Glusker:

The practical value is that you give the coordinates and then you can build a three-dimensional model of the molecule.

Zierler:

And knowing the three-dimensional model of the molecule helps you with what, knowing that?

Glusker:

Well, it will—say, for instance in a molecule, you've got a carboxyl group sitting out here, and there's an NH group up here, so we know NH groups react with oxygen-containing groups, and the O group is looking for a different kind of group to interact with, maybe a metal ion. But you've got some information about how it even might pack. So in the crystal, you've got a molecule, which is packing with other molecules. Millions of them. And all packing in the same way. I mean, it's an amazing thing that nature does that. I'm sure with the history of science, that's one of the amazing things—

Zierler:

There's a lot of wonder to be felt in the world for sure.

Glusker:

Exactly. It's great. It's just great. So—

Zierler:

So at what point in graduate school did you settle on a research focus? This is what you were going to write your dissertation on? This is what you were going to occupy —

Glusker:

Well, I've already—

Zierler:

—your time.

Glusker:

—written a dissertation for my undergraduate research, which was published. And then I went to work with Dorothy Hodgkin. And shortly after that, someone sent her some crystals related to vitamin B12. And she asked me if I would be interested in looking at that. And they didn't know very much about it. They didn't know the chemical formula, even. And the organic chemists, one of whom turned out to be a second cousin of mine—

Zierler:

Really?

Glusker:

—in Cambridge University, England. Yes. Dr. Raymond Bonnett.

Zierler:

Really?

Glusker:

We were trying to work out what the formula was, you see. And this was an Australian chemist, Dr. Jack Cannon, who had been trying to crystalize this product. And he was going on a holiday in Europe and he just got so fed up he just went around and looked at all the solvents in the lab, ether, acetone, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And put them in this compound and left for his three-week holiday. Came back and found little crystals. So everyone said, "What did you put in the—what did you put in it? What did this?" And he says, "I don't remember. I used every solvent available. I was just fed up with not getting good results." [laugh]

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

And not being able to repeat that particular compound. It was related to vitamin B12. So that was what I worked on. So then Dorothy communicated with a man at UCLA in Los Angeles, and he was interested in computation and wanted to do computations. And vitamin B12 is composed of over 100 atoms, so it was the largest molecule being looked at at that time. And—

Zierler:

The largest thing out of what?

Glusker:

The largest chemical for which they were trying to get the crystal structure, trying to get the three-dimensional structure. So it was a big, big problem. And people were working on even bigger molecules like insulin and so on, but they weren't getting very far, because it was difficult to know what to believe. And if you calculated the electron density with a formula, did you really believe where you put things and so on. So it was a big job—

Zierler:

And so you focused on B-12 throughout your graduate work? That was—

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

—your main focus?

Glusker:

Yes, yes, yes.

Zierler:

And what were your—what do you feel were your contributions to the field as a result of your graduate work?

Glusker:

Well—my contributions? Well, I was allowed to give the first talk about the structure. That was a—

Zierler:

The first talk at Oxford—

Glusker:

As a—

Zierler:

—or anywhere?

Glusker:

As a scientist at the Institute of Physics meeting in Bristol, England.

Zierler:

Uh-huh.

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

Well, what did you have to say about it?

Glusker:

I had to say this is what we worked on, and this is what its chemical formula is. And everyone said rah, rah—and so on.

Zierler:

Now, at what point did you meet your future husband? Was this undergraduate or graduate school?

Glusker:

This is graduate school. But when I met him, I met him as an undergraduate. He was a Rhodes Scholar. And he was working with Dr. H. W. Thompson [?], who was the man I was working with, and also Dr. Robrt S. Mulliken, who was a Nobel Prize winner from Chicago. And so he was working on electron transfer and thinking about how molecules interact with each other. So we met and—

Zierler:

And what school was he coming from?

Glusker:

Berkeley.

Zierler:

Uh-huh. He was at Berkeley?

Glusker:

Yes. He had a chemistry degree from The University of California, Berkeley.

Zierler:

Right. Right.

Glusker:

Yes. Yes.

Zierler:

How did you meet him? In a lab? At a bar?

Glusker:

Well, I went—I was told I had to go to—my first day at work, so I was told go to this room, room 24 in the Physical Chemistry building in Oxford, . I knocked on the door and this American opened the door and said, "Are you Miss Pickworth?" And I said, "Yes."

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

And then, he had to set up his apparatus every morning. And so he would tell me about what life in America was like.

Zierler:

Had you ever talked to an American before?

Glusker:

Oh, yes. But not in the detail that I talked to him about it. And he would tell me about his family and so on. He never asked me out. And then, when I left to go and do graduate work in a different place, I guess he missed me. So there we are.

Zierler:

Well, he must've asked you out at some point, 'cause you eventually married him.

Glusker:

That's what I said, yes. Once I left, yes, yes.

Zierler:

So once you left, did he follow you or you maintained—you were still nearby, you just went—

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

—to a different lab?

Glusker:

He was working in a different lab then. Yes. So we did see each other a lot, yes. And I still kept up with all the men at the lab, pretty much. I mean, I was the only woman in the lab, but they've all sort of kept up through the years and told me who they married and who their children were, and came here to visit.

Zierler:

And when did you get married?

Glusker:

I got married just after I finished my degree. I needed to get to America, so—

Zierler:

So you were married in America?

Glusker:

Yes, I was married in America. My father didn't like the idea of my getting married, actually. He thought I should wait awhile. But, at that time, Americans were not viewed as good marriage candidates.

Zierler:

Really?

Glusker:

Yes. He believed from the newpaper reports that they might have a previous wife and six kids that you had to look after and so on. The newspapers were full of it, the skilled married men —

Zierler:

Did your husband defy the stereotype?

Glusker:

Yes, right. Absolutely.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

Absolutely, yes, yes.

Zierler:

Where were you married? Where was he from?

Glusker:

He was from Southern California, so we actually married in Hollywood. We had found a minister who was—my husband was Jewish. And so we had to figure out how we could cope with that. But we met a minister that we really liked, and he had married my husband's cousin. So we went and he married us. And so we got married—I got married while I was doing post-doc work at Caltech.

Zierler:

OK. Had he finished his degree at that point?

Glusker:

Yes, yes. He was working at Caltech, as well.

Zierler:

So you were both working at Caltech?

Glusker:

So, yes, for—I was just there for a year. He was there for two years.

Zierler:

And what was your work at Caltech? What were you doing there?

Glusker:

I was working with Linus Pauling. I don't know if you've heard of him, but—

Zierler:

I certainly have heard of Linus.

Glusker:

I'm sure you—I'm just joking. [laugh]

Zierler:

Right. I think—what do they say? He's in those rankings of most influential scientists of all time. He's right up there at the top of that list.

Glusker:

Well, I told you I've been lucky.

Zierler:

You have.

Glusker:

I’m told I've been lucky.

Zierler:

Unbelievable.

Glusker:

I mean, I got a job with him, in his lab, with Professor Robert Corey.

Zierler:

So what was it like to work with him?

Glusker:

Absolutely wonderful.

Zierler:

Yeah?

Glusker:

Yes. I mean, he—

Zierler:

He was supportive—

Glusker:

Yeah.

Zierler:

—of you?

Glusker:

Supportive and thinking all the time and trying to help you. Very helpful. And it didn't bother him that I was a woman. It bothered a lot other scientists—Caltech was like a monastery.

Zierler:

How do you mean?

Glusker:

It really was amazing to be a woman scientist at Caltech, but—there were only male washrooms. Yes. And then, all—

Zierler:

So a lot of people thought you were like a secretary, something like that?

Glusker:

Yes, yes, yes.

Zierler:

You had that?

Glusker:

Yes, yes. And, yes, the man who was in charge of the equipment came to teach me how to use the X-ray equipment. And we were in the lab, which is on the fourth floor, and we had to go down to the basement, which is where the X-ray equipment was. It's always in the basement because it's—that's the most stable part of any building. And if you're on the fourth floor, it’s several flights down to your equipment in the basement—so we were going from the lab down to where the equipment was. So he leant in the elevator and pushed the bottom and ran downstairs and met me at the bottom. So there we are. He didn’t want to be alone with a woman in the elevator. Who knows what people would say? So—

Zierler:

That's a long time ago.

Glusker:

It's a long time ago. But I wasn’t going to do anything about it.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

[laugh] I mean, really, I just think such a—I don't understand why he did that. And they all laughed, so—

Zierler:

Now, were you working with Linus Pauling on his research or you were pursuing something different?

Glusker:

I was working—well, I wasn’t actually working with him. He'd just won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. And—

Zierler:

So he was already well known at that point?

Glusker:

Oh, very well known, yes. And it was just—I'm very honored that I was able to work with him. Yes. And that was a—

Zierler:

So what was he working on at the time, do you remember?

Glusker:

Staying out of away from newsman and politicians because of his views on nuclear radiation.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

[laugh] No. Keeping things going. He was—I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that.

Zierler:

That's fine. That's fine.

Glusker:

It was later on when I knew him, he was having more trouble—

Zierler:

Sure. Yeah.

Glusker:

—whether he was going to have to call the authorities. And—

Zierler:

And what about you, what were you doing there?

Glusker:

I was working on some peptides. Amino acid. Just little bits of a protein. And I was working mainly with a person, Dr. Dick Marsh. I don't know if you've done anything with Dick Marsh?

Zierler:

No.

Glusker:

He was a scientist. He died recently, but he was— a superb mentor to me. When you go to a new lab, you've got to learn how the computer works and how the current equipment works. And it's a lot of learning, what you've got to do again there. What you knew before isn't always of great use.

Zierler:

So as a post-doc, you were setting the terms of your own research? You were asking your own questions and you were setting the agenda for what it was—

Glusker:

Yeah. But I was using—

Zierler:

—you wanted to accomplish?

Glusker:

I was doing some—I was doing the structure work on some materials that had been left by a quite famous German scientist who had made crystals. And somehow at Caltech they had obtained the crystals. Maybe they were sent by one of his relatives when he died. And they had them, and so I picked out a little of series crystals. And the one that worked, I started doing data work on it. Yes.

Zierler:

Uh-huh. So based on your research at Oxford, Caltech was the place for you to be, it sounds like?

Glusker:

I think so. It was a good place to be. I was only there for a year.

Zierler:

Right, right. So now, you and your husband are both on post-docs?

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

Now we have this situation which happens all too often, spouses that need to get hired at the same place, right? So now you're basically—you're both looking for full-time work?

Glusker:

Looking for full-time work. Must be in the same town.

Zierler:

Would you be competing for the same jobs? Was there enough overlap in your expertise or that wouldn't—

Glusker:

We wouldn't compete for the same job, but we got—I got offered jobs at both DuPont and Rohm & Haas.

Zierler:

Roman and Hearse?

Glusker:

Rohm & Haas Company.

Zierler:

I'm not familiar.

Glusker:

Well, it's now Dow.

Zierler:

Oh, there you go.

Glusker:

Yes, yes. But it was Rohm & Haas. And—

Zierler:

So you were looking for jobs in industry? That was your focus at that point? Or you were looking—

Glusker:

Well, what do you—

Zierler:

—all over the place?

Glusker:

—know, I didn't know that—

Zierler:

I mean, as opposed to academia, as opposed to government work?

Glusker:

I was offered a job at Oxford with tenure. I don't have it in writing because they didn't write it down, so I can't prove it, but I really was, by the Principal of Somerville College. But I wanted to get married and I wanted to go to America and work with Linus Pauling.

Zierler:

When did you get that—you got that offer before you went to Caltech?

Glusker:

Yes, before I went to Caltech.

Zierler:

Oh, my goodness.

Glusker:

So—

Zierler:

How many people in the history of Oxford have ever turned down a—

Glusker:

Oh, now—

Zierler:

—tenured position?

Glusker:

—quite a few, I think. Quite a few, now.

Zierler:

Really?

Glusker:

It was the college, but then I would have—and it wasn’t with a big salary or anything.

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

It was just I would have to get my salary.

Zierler:

But that wasn't feasible given your—

Glusker:

But I had turned that down.

Zierler:

—personal life?

Glusker:

So that was not where I wanted to go, because—

Zierler:

And your husband wanted to go back to America for sure?

Glusker:

He wanted to go back to America, but he would've stayed in England if need be. But if I stayed in Oxford at the time I was finishing my graduate work, I would always have been Dorothy's assistant.

Zierler:

You would've never grown out of that role?

Glusker:

No. Think about it. Yes.

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

Yes. And I wanted to be on my own role.

Zierler:

Sure.

Glusker:

So I said no. And so—but working in industry sounded fine, so I applied. And everyone said, "Why don't you apply to Fox Chase because Dr. Lindo Patterson is there?" And Patterson was one of the early people who was figured out a theory as to how to take the diffraction pattern and tell what the structure is. So I thought that would be great, so I—

Zierler:

So Institute for Cancer Research became Fox Chase? These are—

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

OK. So it was called Institute of Cancer Research first?

Glusker:

The Institute for Cancer Research.

Zierler:

I'm sorry.

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

Institute for Cancer Research?

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

And then, at some point, it became Fox Chase?

Glusker:

Yes. I mean, just because it's in Fox Chase and there are other institutes—became other—there were other institutes for cancer research around the country, so—so I don't remember exactly when Fox Chase came in.

Zierler:

Sure, sure.

Glusker:

But it was—just came.

Zierler:

And your husband got a job offer in Philadelphia, also?

Glusker:

Well, we both got job offers at Rohm & Haas and with DuPont. And DuPont gave me an offer—I mean, they were almost the same. Don had an extra year's experience, so he got a little bit more. But the amount I was offered was a—almost an offer as good an offer as what he had, so—in both cases. But with DuPont, they said, "If your husband goes to work for Rohm & Haas, we will have to think it through that he's—your husband's working for our—"

Zierler:

Competitor

Glusker:

Competitor, yes.

Zierler:

Right?

Glusker:

Yes, yes. So I said OK. So, anyway, I looked into the work of Dr. Lindo Patterson, who I had met. I met him at a meeting. I asked Dorothy Hodgkin to introduce me, and she did. And then, when I shook hands with him, then I didn't know what to say. I'll never forget that. How could that be? Here I was meeting this great man and—

Zierler:

You were star-struck a little bit?

Glusker:

—I couldn't think of a word to say, yes. So I was told that he was leaving because the Board of directors at Fox Chase, the Institute it was at that time, said that—sort of the same thing that my husband's brother had said. My husband's brother, Philp Glusker, was a famous lawyer in Beverly Hills. He said, "Just go through all the chemicals and there must be one that works. That's how to solve the cancer problem."

Zierler:

Enough said.

Glusker:

So he said that, like the administration at the Institute, instead of doing all silly things like trying to find out what molecules look like and how to fit them into DNA and all that sort of thing.

Zierler:

You mean, one magic chemical to solve all cancer maladies?

Glusker:

That's what they thought. So apparently—

Zierler:

Wouldn’t that have been nice?

Glusker:

Yes. But it's not the way it is.

Zierler:

[laugh] Right. Not even close.

Glusker:

Not even close. So—

Zierler:

So was this attractive to you because you felt like—

Glusker:

Well, he—

Zierler:

—cancer research was this new frontier of discovery?

Glusker:

Yes. I thought that would be really good, yes. But he had apparently—all the staff, when they heard the idea of one chemical thought of leaving—a lot of them were not used to injecting mice anyway.

Zierler:

[phone ringing] Sorry about that.

Glusker:

No trouble. So apparently, they all had their letters of—the whole staff had their letters of resignation in a pile, gave it to one member of their staff who then went to the board and said, "We have all these—everyone has—everyone who's running lab is leaving." So they said, no, forget about that thing. But this was at the time, you see. So I thought, well, that's not a good place to apply. But then, when I heard the Board did not accept the new idea, I did call him up. And he said, "Oh, yes, yes. Come on over. Yes. I don't have a position for you, though," he said. So he said, "Could you be a technician for a year? I’ll pay you a technician salary for a year, and I promise you next year you'll be able to—" So, yeah.

Zierler:

[phone ringing] I'm going to turn the volume off on that. So was your sense that ICR, if that's a fair way to call it—

Glusker:

Yeah.

Zierler:

—was this at the vanguard of cancer research at the time? Did you feel—

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

—like you were at a place that was really cutting edge?

Glusker:

Yes. Well, I feel, even though I've left—well, I'm still a member. I feel that, through the years, it has. And it solved one cancer problem.

Zierler:

Which one was that?

Glusker:

That was the Philadelphia chromosome problem. You probably know about that?

Zierler:

I've heard of it, yeah.

Glusker:

OK. Well, that's very interesting, because the question was—I mean, you go and you start thinking—well, let me just finish about Linus—about coming to work for Patterson. I decided that was a good, fair thing if he—'cause I had his promise. But, of course, in later years directors would say I went from being a technician to running a lab. And I'd say, "No, no, no. That was just—there wasn’t money, but—" Yeah. So—and what was I just about to tell you?

Oh, yes. Telling you about the Philadelphia chromosome. Yes. It was Dr, Dave Hungerford who first noticed there was a chromosome that was a little bit short if that person probably had a particular kind of cancer. And I think he was working with people such as Dr, Peter Nowell down at The University of Pennsylvania. But we were thinking, if you grow a liver, it stops growing when it's the right size. If you're growing your lungs, you're growing your—everything you grow, your brain, everything, it stops.

Zierler:

When it's supposed to?

Glusker:

When it's supposed to. And cancer, it doesn’t stop. So the question is, why is not stopping? What's making this cell do this—not stopping, and then at least teaching every other cell to not stop, either. So—

Zierler:

That was the question then?

Glusker:

That was the question.

Zierler:

And what—let's orient our chronology here. What year are we talking about roughly? When did you start at ICR?

Glusker:

I started in ICR in 1956. But I think it was a little bit later that Hungerford did his experiment.

Zierler:

OK. So even as early as 1956 there was the thought that cancer had a genetic basis to it?

Glusker:

Possibly, yes. Because you find it runs in families. I mean, you have people who say, "Yes, I had it. My sister didn't have it but one of her children did," and that sort of thing.

And you think that there's something in there—there's something somewhere. Anyway, eventually, somebody found a chromosome that was a little bit larger, or found a little bit of extra. So, obviously, the chromosome had broken in the wrong place. And then they—with the more modern methods of analysis, they were able to figure out where it broke and what enzyme was involved. And how did the now-damaged enzyme work and how could it be inhibited. Then one could give the inhibitor as a medication. And if you have that one rather particular kind of cancer, I think you're in good shape, as long as you take your medication.

Zierler:

Yeah. So your research was more on the treatment side or it was more on—

Glusker:

The structure.

Zierler:

The structure side.

Glusker:

Yes. The structure of—we were interested for a long time in a particular cell cycle in humans, which one man had said was—if it didn't work quite properly—that was the Krebs cycle—maybe that was the problem in cancer. And then we also moved to looking at things that prevent cancer and—compounds that prevent cancer and compounds that cause cancer. So—and tried to think how they would fit into DNA and how flat are they. Even the ones that cause cancer, they're—hydrocarbons, the polycyclic hydrocarbons. They're methyl groups. They tend to buckle a little bit because the hydrogen of the CH3 group kind of interacts, so it makes it a little bit thicker and therefore would fit differently.

Zierler:

Did you see your work at ICR as a natural progression from your graduate studies to Caltech, or did you feel like this was a significant shift in your career trajectory?

Glusker:

No. Actually, Caltech was following from Oxford, and then, yes, ICR was just following on that.

Zierler:

But before ICR, you didn't—I mean, I'm asking because it seems that you clearly would've taken a very different path had you gone to Dow or DuPont, obviously.

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

Right. So it seems to me like your graduate studies were sufficiently broad where you could have gone in any of directions?

Glusker:

Yes, yes, yes.

Zierler:

But you liked ICR? You enjoyed what you did there?

Glusker:

I liked what I did there, and, again, it was very interesting work. And, of course, I had kids, so—

Zierler:

Yeah. When did you have your first kid?

Glusker:

1959. And so I had to figure out—no daycare. I mean, I later worked for—

Zierler:

Was there such a thing as maternity leave in 1959?

Glusker:

No.

Zierler:

No?

Glusker:

But I was—I mean, Lindo Patterson liked me enough that he let me stay—I said, "I am going to work until just before the baby's born and I won't come back then until the baby sleeps through the night." So that was our agreement. So I got nothing but—

Zierler:

Did it work?

Glusker:

It worked very- well, yes.

Zierler:

Yeah?

Glusker:

But I had to spend most of my income paying for housekeepers to come and—

Zierler:

Right.

Glusker:

—look after the kids—

Zierler:

Sure.

Glusker:

—while I went to work.

Zierler:

Yep, yep. That's still the case today. [laugh]

Glusker:

Yes. Right, right, right. I had three different housekeepers, and everyone said, "Your children will be just such a mess. You have no idea what a mess they will be." Had one who came Monday and Tuesday, one came Wednesday and Friday, and one came Thursday. And we always knew which day of the week it was. And if one of them got sick, they would—they all knew about each other. So they would talk to each—they all said they could only do two days or I can only do one day. And I'd say, "I'll take you, agreed." So they would stand in for each other if one of them had an operation or something. They would work out and tell me, and the kids would get very confused, "I thought it was Tuesday today?" [laugh].

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

Wrong person came.

Zierler:

So it's such a unique opportunity in terms of six-plus decades in cancer research, right?

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

Looking back, just some sort of broader questions now. Are you surprised at how, I guess, prevalent cancer continues to be and how high mortality rates for certain cancers continue to be? I mean, if you could imagine yourself thinking back to 1956 where a mentor said, "Just find that one chemical and that'll solve everything." And now fast-forwarding that to where we are today, would you be surprised at the amount of progress in either direction, or do you think that this is—it makes sense where we are circa 2020?

Glusker:

I think it makes sense. I mean, I knew that cancer was a—there were a lot of people had cancer. And I knew—if you look in your own family tree, you'll find there are people who have cancer. And housekeepers would get cancers, some would recover and some would not, but—

Zierler:

So you knew early on that there was no such thing like a polio vaccine for cancer? There wasn’t—

Glusker:

Yeah.

Zierler:

—some cure-all that would just solve the issue. You understood that early on?

Glusker:

Well, what I understood was that cancer is a very general term for a lot of different things. And a lot of things that are almost unrelated. I mean, I told you about Dr. Dave Hungerford and doing—finding out—what happened to the enzyme so that it didn't stop doing what it was doing. And that's not the way all cancers work. And, of course, if you're a girl you're very conscious of women who die of breast cancer. I mean, it was a miserable death in the '50s. And it's treated somewhat better now.

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

Yes. So, no, I wasn't surprised. I mean, and my parents got the British Medical Journal so I always read that, to see. And there would be reports of cases of we did this to this person, or we did that to that person, and they recovered, or they didn't recover. And can anyone help us, is the sort of thing—the articles you would see, so—

Zierler:

And what kind of collaboration did you have outside of ICR? Did you work with colleagues that were practitioners in hospitals, in academia, at the NIH?

Glusker:

In academia a lot, yes.

Zierler:

A lot?

Glusker:

I worked with a lot of people, yes. Bud Carrell and Eileen Pytko. People who have been in the lab at Fox Chase, The chemists at UCLA who were doing the computing, and Dr. Kenneth Trueblood and I wrote a text-book together. So that was good. And it sold well, so—and got translated a lot. So, yes. And I had people who would come and stay for a short while. People would want to work in the lab for, say, maybe a few weeks and just chat about scientific ideas and get paid a little bit—paid their fare. And so—and maybe they stayed here. Don't know how many people have ever—I mean, this is a smallish house, but we've had every bit of floor space covered by visiting scientists. [laugh] Visitors included John Stezowski from the University of Stuttgart in Germany, Max Taylor and Colin Kennard from Australia and many Drexel University students such as Fred Soule, Carol Ann Casciato, Skip Orehowsky and Liat Shimoni from Israel. And I used to give dinner parties when people like Linus Pauling came to lecture. The institute had this rule that you could take him out to dinner and take three or four people out to dinner, but it must not exceed a certain amount of money. That was all they could give you. So I'd say, "Give me the money and we'll have everyone here." So we even got up to 40 people, including , many post-docs. came. Doesn’t cost much to make a salad.

Zierler:

Of course, of course.

Glusker:

You buy a salad for 40 people, you buy a few lettuces, a few plants, and so on. It meant the students got a chance to meet people like Linus Pauling, which meant a lot to them. So that was good. So, now, do you have a question?

Zierler:

Oh, I mean, there's just so much to discuss. I mean, one thing is, again, to focus on your long perspective on cancer research. So today, when somebody gets a cancer diagnosis and it's terminal and there's nothing that they could do for them, at this point is that because, in your view, there are still things that we don't understand about cancer? Or is it simply a matter of this is just—there's only so many things that people can do to reverse the tide of nature? How do you see those things?

Glusker:

Well, I think a lot of people make personal decisions about it. And some of the personal decisions—I mean, I'm not going to talk politics with you.

Zierler:

You can if you want.

Glusker:

I can?

Zierler:

Absolutely.

Glusker:

OK.

Zierler:

This is a safe space.

Glusker:

OK. I am very much for an English-type health service. And I was told the other day that there was an article, which I can't find, but somebody read it in which there were twin girls, one was living in America and one was living in United States. And they both, as happens with twin girls—because I have a very good friend who is a twin, and her twin lives in England. And she says, "We get a cold, she gets a cold. I hurt myself, she—" you know? It's unreal. She said it's sort of unreal. So they both got breast cancer, and it described what happened to the one in England and what happened to the one in America. Totally different. The one in America had to just worry about how much they would—it would cost. And the one in England had to deal with how to deal with it. They both, I think, recovered in the end, but with very different worries. So I see a lot of people who have to go through miseries—

Zierler:

On top of their health issues?

Glusker:

—that I don't think they should have to deal with. And I just feel very—so angry when I hear about it. My mother-in-law died of cancer, and my father put—every penny he saved into medical care. He ended up with nothing. Well, he owned his house.

Zierler:

Your father-in-law, you mean?

Glusker:

My father-in-law, yes, yes. Yes. In California. My parents died of heart problems.

Zierler:

So you think a—

Glusker:

—but—

Zierler:

—national health system—

Glusker:

—there are a lot of decisions people have to make. And whether—if it's—for a lot of people it's not the first time they've had cancer, too. And they're just—how do you want to deal with this? What is it like to have the medication, and do I want to live and be miserable or should I just end it even though it's sort of miserable to end? So I think there are a lot decisions people make, but in those two countries they make them for different reasons. Which I think is a great shame.

Zierler:

Do you think at some point in the future the treatment options that are currently available to us will seem primitive? In other words, chemotherapy—

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

Is—can you see a time in the future when we would look at chemotherapy the way we would look at leeches and bloodletting in the medieval times?

Glusker:

Well, I think you should look at—I mean, I would hope you would look on chemotherapy the way they worked on this disease that I talked about David Hungerford—worked on, where they figure out what the chemical is that you want—that you need and give it to you. It's like diabetes. They know that insulin will help. OK. But, remember, we don't know what will help, so they give a mixture of horrors and—

Zierler:

Today, you're saying?

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

'Cause we still don't know.

Glusker:

Yes. And they're killing the more rapidly-growing cells, is the idea. As their cancer is rapidly growing, kill the more rapidly growing cells. So in the future, I would hope they would say, well that's—we've looked at your—the DNA and we know what exactly you need to take, some chemical with this particular group in it.

Zierler:

Do you have views on holistic medicine and this sort of alternative waves of treating cancer through nutrition and breathing and that kind of thing? Or do you consider those kinds of solutions hogwash?

Glusker:

Well, I think they have some reason to just watch your health. But that's it, yes. I mean, it's very sad to see people who have had a funny-looking lump that they assumed was OK. Costs so much to go see the doctor and so didn't get around to it

Zierler:

So your political views dropped off a little bit there. Are you saying that, like, a single-payer system is the best system or what—

Glusker:

No. A no-payer system.

Zierler:

A no-payer system.

Glusker:

A no-payer system.

Zierler:

A full-on national health service?

Glusker:

Yeah. My brother died about two years ago he died of—he was a doctor, but he died of lung cancer. And he got hospice care, he got day-to-day care. If he had to have surgery, they would pick him up and take him where he had to go. He had the option of a major surgery, which he refused and—because he had his wife that he was trying to look after—had a neurological problem. And so—but—

Zierler:

So a national health service would clearly be better for patients. What about for research? What would be the impact of a national health service on research?

Glusker:

Well, I'm listening to the news today and I'm hearing they're getting around to testing for the coronavirus—on the ships.

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

We've known about coronavirus, even you and me—

Zierler:

Sure.

Glusker:

—for weeks.

Zierler:

Right. Right.

Glusker:

And they had a system, they had some testing things—

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

—which were no good, and everyone's laughing about them.

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

And so, while the Japanese and the English and so on are testing, we don't know whether these people have flu or coronavirus or what. I mean, they now will, but—anyway Trump says you don't have to worry about it because most people aren't very ill even, so—even though they say we won't have enough breathing machines. So it's an interesting problem.

Zierler:

Are you worried about coronavirus? You think it's going to become a big problem here?

Glusker:

I don't know. I haven’t—I'm not too worried about it at the moment, but I'm thinking if we had a health service, there would've been a group that the President could have just called up so-and-so and say, "I'll give you some extra money, but get on this quickly and see what to do."

Zierler:

Right.

Glusker:

And he would know exactly what to do. I mean, my brother, when he was very ill, they said, "Well, there are various courses of treatment that you could have. You can have this or this or this. You could have big surgery or little surgery or no surgery and chemo and radiation. And you—do you want to choose one? But if you don't you can have whatever. It's up to you. It's your choice." But there wasn't a charge. All they want when you go to a hospital in the U.S.—in the U.K. is what is your name and your date of birth. Of course, some people don't want to give their date of birth, but that's another thing.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

Getting back to Fox Chase, what was the budgetary environment like there? Did you have constraints on what you were able to do, or did you sort of feel like you could pursue whatever you wanted and the budget would work it out?

Glusker:

I pursued the way I wanted, but I had to write to NIH and get money. I had to raise the money.

Zierler:

Uh-huh. And NIH was the main funding source for Fox Chase?

Glusker:

And the American Cancer Society also gave me money. And, yes, I was expected to raise the money to run my lab.

Zierler:

Right. So Fox Chase—

Glusker:

And then, they would back me up for various amounts, depending on how well off ICR was. And maybe for a year they'd say, "OK, we'll carry your—we'll carry the—all the salaries for a year—"

Zierler:

Mm-hmm.

Glusker:

"But if you don't get anything by a year, then, sorry."

Zierler:

When you were writing NIH for money, did it ever occur to you to just go work for NIH directly and cut out the process?

Glusker:

Well, as far as I'm concerned, I worked for the NIH.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

I mean, I was on their study sections. I was on their council. I mean, if you look through my CV—

Zierler:

Sure.

Glusker:

I spent ages of my life reading grants for other people and writing reviews. And I worked very hard, because I was probably—there was always one woman and one man on the—the one black man on the committee.

Zierler:

Uh-huh.

Glusker:

And we would always sit—

Zierler:

For diversity?

Glusker:

—we would sit together and joke about it.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

I think it's a bit different now, but—

Zierler:

Uh-huh. So you really—you didn't feel limited by budgetary constraints to pursue your research?

Glusker:

Well, I was because sometimes they'd say, "We're not sure about this particular project." But I learned how to deal with it. And, because I had done so many—been on so many committees, at least the people in the committees would kind of look over and say, "Make sure she gets at least some." And I finally gave up, because they said it was the 52nd year of the grant. I inherited it from— Lindo Patterson when it was in it’s 17th year, or something like that. But it was so old, and they were saying they had to get rid of some remarks made by various people. So I thought, yeah, they're saying I'm a bit too old to be taking up all this money.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

So I decided to close the lab.

Zierler:

And can you talk a little bit about how you conceptualized the grant? In other words, how did you put together a research problem that needed to be funded? How did that work? Did people come to you with questions and you said, OK, that's a research project there, let me look for funding for that? What's the general process for that?

Glusker:

Well, I sort of knew what I wanted to do. And I haven't mentioned, towards the end of my career, I also got very interested in how various metals interact and what their roles are. Because of having a feeling that maybe some metals are involved in the cancer problem.

Zierler:

Metals in the body?

Glusker:

Yes. Metals that you take in and what does your body do with them. And what—we're learning a lot now about structure of enzymes and where the metals go and what they like and so on. And so I knew what I wanted to do, and so I would write and tell them, "This is important for this reason."

Zierler:

So this was based on your own keeping up with the literature and what people are doing?

Glusker:

Yes. Keeping up with the literature, what other people are doing in the area. And I found it took me about three months to write a grant. About three months. I would let the other people in my life get on with their research and I could deal with problems. But I said, "I'm getting your salary, so let me be." And they would.

Zierler:

Do you see any moments in your career where you had breakthrough discoveries, "aha moments," or was it more an incremental process of just pushing the ball forward—

Glusker:

No. I have—

Zierler:

—and increasing knowledge?

Glusker:

—I have—particularly one of [?] incremental, yes. Very exciting one, yes. And I was very proud of that. Finally figured out how a particular enzyme must work—a Krebs cycle enzyme.

Zierler:

Mm-hmm. When was that? When did you make that discovery?

Glusker:

That was in the late '60s.

Zierler:

Uh-huh.

Glusker:

Yes. And, yeah, I guess there were some other "ahas," but that was the most exciting.

Zierler:

And did you know it was exciting because of the recognition you got for it or because you knew yourself?

Glusker:

Oh, because I knew myself it—

Zierler:

You knew yourself?

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

You knew what—

Glusker:

I had answered a question that I'd been carrying for a couple of—two or three years.

Zierler:

Uh-huh.

Glusker:

How does this enzyme convert this thing to this thing? And—

Zierler:

And if we can trace that discovery, where did it go from there in terms of what was improved, how knowledge was advanced?

Glusker:

Well, it was to do with citric acid cycle and how it converted certain chemicals. And I think it emphasized what happens—sometimes you have chemicals that interact in the body in a very important—but they have two groups that are the same on a carbon atom. Two long groups, and they're identical. And then it will sometimes bind one way, or it'll sometimes bind the other way, so that's what I was showing. And how—if it bound one way it would do this and if it bound the other way it would do the other thing.

Zierler:

Another very broad question—

Glusker:

I mean, I did get an award for it, actually, so—

Zierler:

Of course.

Glusker:

Yeah. [laugh]

Zierler:

Of course. So you knew from that?

Glusker:

Yeah. But that was later, yeah.

Zierler:

That was later on?

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

Another broadly conceived question is—I mean, not to minimize all of the tremendous advances that have been made in cancer research, where do you see your career achievements fitting in with that broad trend towards advances in cancer research? What have you contributed to the field? How do you see your career in terms of contributions to advancing how to understand and treat cancer?

Glusker:

Well, I think a lot of my research involved how to solve this diffraction problem—of knowing what the answer is for the structure. And then looking to see what the three-dimensional nature is and what those groups will interact. I did a lot of work on taking a molecule and looking to see in various crystal structures what's around it. And then you say, oh, it always—this group always likes to have a metal here. And this group likes something specific. And these ones are not so interested.

Zierler:

Right, right. And—

Glusker:

I don't know what you're going to do if you don't have a camera, but still—

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

Yeah.

Zierler:

The listeners will figure it out.

Glusker:

Yeah, yeah.

Zierler:

So from a workaday perspective, as you're making these discoveries, is this a theoretical pursuit? Is this you on the chalkboard? Are you looking down a microscope? What are you doing on a daily basis to advance this knowledge?

Glusker:

Well, I'm advancing knowledge in more than just cancer. I mean, I've actually—oh, in the last 10 years of when I was really working very actively, it was working on metals and how they interact with—and how you can tell that—how they interact. And I got a lot of letters from people saying, "I've done this protein structure and I have a metal, but which metal do you think it is?" And I could say, "Well, it's probably—I can tell you from what I've learned that it's probably this particular metal. And it likes this particular thing." But—

Zierler:

I'm asking in terms of the lab work, are you looking down a microscope a lot to make these discoveries?

Glusker:

Oh, no, no, no. We're looking at a crystal sitting on a diffractometer. Shooting an X-ray beam at it—at the crystal. The crystal's standing there and you shoot the X-ray beam. And you have a detection system, which used to be film, but now it's electronic. And then you rotate it a little bit and you get all the—the diffraction pattern.

Zierler:

Right, right. And I guess, so we understand our academic fields in terms of drawing Venn diagrams, are all crystallographers chemists?

Glusker:

No, no. There are—a lot of them are geologists.

Zierler:

A lot of crystallographers are geologists, as well?

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

And then, where does physics come into this?

Glusker:

Well, the diffraction is physics.

Zierler:

I see. I see.

Glusker:

It's only that we know how to do it because the German physicists knew what to do. And not just German, there were others. But the Germans did a lot.

Zierler:

Now, did you learn the finer details of how the diffractions work because you took classes in physics or because this is something that you just sort of learned in the lab?

Glusker:

I learnt it in the lab, and I learnt it by reading some very good textbooks. And I wrote a textbook with Ken Trueblood.

Zierler:

Right.

Glusker:

Actually, two textbooks, so—

Zierler:

Right.

Glusker:

Yeah. So—

Zierler:

I wonder—we've talked a lot about some of the people who have mentored you. I wonder if you could talk about the people that you have served as a mentor for? I'm thinking of, like, Miriam Rossi and Virginia Pett, some of the people who came across your career who you took under your wing.

Glusker:

Yes. I think they mostly like working in my lab. I mean, one or two didn't, but mostly they did. I had a lot of Drexel students. And they learnt quite a lot. Miriam Rossi came as—I guess she'd just got her degree. She was—I guess most of them found some aspect, some particular enzyme or some particular aspect of the science that they liked to continue on their own—go on with. Bill Stallings was very interested in biotin and how it worked and what it did. And so he concentrated a lot on that. And Miriam Rossi got very interested in cytochrome p450 and how that was—what that was doing to carcinogens. And Virginia, I think—well, Virginia Pett did a lot of work for me with—we looked at other B12 structures and looked to see how much variation you could get in the structure, and—

Zierler:

So you returned to B12?

Glusker:

Yes, yes. But not too much. I mean, just different B12s. And there are two kinds of B12. Anyway, I kept in contact with Dorothy Hodgkin so she knew what we were doing and she was doing other things by that time and was quite happy at what we were doing. Dick van der Helm worked for Lindo Patterson and I learnt a lot by working with him. We worked together on several structures. Eric Gabe was interested particularly in the equipment, how to get better equipment. And they all went off and did quite well in their careers, I think. Helen Berman was a little bit anxious and—but she's gone on to really work on the Protein Data Bank, which is a fairly essential thing.

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

You can type in a name of a protein and find out what the crystallographic study that has been done on it is. And she had worked on some things with Ned Seeman and—who else? I'm sure I've forgotten someone.

Zierler:

And you worked with these people in their capacity as post-docs?

Glusker:

Mostly as post-docs. And some were post-docs in the same lab when we were—when Lindo Patterson was alive. Because he died in '66. So—

Zierler:

Did you ever serve as an outside reader for dissertation committees?

Glusker:

Oh, all the time.

Zierler:

You did?

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

You did. So you were very—

Glusker:

I would attend the examination—yes. Down at the University of Pennsylvania—

Zierler:

Sure.

Glusker:

—University of Calgary in Canada, South Africa.

Zierler:

Mm-hmm.

Glusker:

—I got to do. I got a lot of—just do it by mail. Australians (Max Taylor and Colin Kennard especially) love love visiting me.

Zierler:

Well, they're family from your second cousin, right?

Glusker:

Fellow structural chemists.

Zierler:

Were there improvements in the technology from an engineering perspective in terms of the instruments you were dealing with?

Glusker:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Zierler:

Were there improvements in the technology that allowed you to do more precise work over the years?

Glusker:

Oh, yes, yes, yes.

Zierler:

And did you work with them? Did you say—did you deal directly with the engineers and say, I'm limited because of such and such and can you work on improving this? Were you part of those conversations?

Glusker:

I wasn’t part of the conversation which said can you improve on this, but I was part of the conversation of, oh, you can—you have a new piece of equipment. Yes. I will buy it and show me how to use it or I will work out how to use it.

Zierler:

And so, can you describe a little—how did the technology and the equipment, how did it improve over the years? What were things that you were able to accomplish in 2005—

Glusker:

Well, the first thing was—

Zierler:

—50 years later?

Glusker:

—you had to deal with film all the time.

Zierler:

Yeah. Oh, everything went digital at some point?

Glusker:

They all went digital, yes.

Zierler:

Right, right.

Glusker:

And the control of the crystal was also controllable, you see.

Zierler:

How do you control the crystal better?

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

I'm asking what's the mechanism for—

Glusker:

It's part of the diffractometer now. You can—

Zierler:

I see.

Glusker:

—rotate the crystal. You mount it on a goniometer head and then you can rotate that. And you can bring the detector in a whole lot of different directions. And there may be one or two directions you can't do it because one thing will slam into another. So you have to learn about that.

Zierler:

Now, there's obviously many advantages to digital over film, but I wonder, is resolution one of them? Can you get better resolution from digital than you can from film, or what were the advantages that you saw from that transition?

Glusker:

Well, you were able to make an assessment of the intensity of the refraction. How strong it was. Whereas to do it by eye is—you learn how to do it but it's a little bit questionable.

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

Yes. I mean, for B12, I had to do it by just holding up the diffraction photograph to a light box and say this one diffraction spot is dark in intensity and this one is light and so on. And then compare it with one diffraction spot that I had exposed for one minute, two minutes, three minutes and assign a value to the diffraction spot. And then compare it. And you could do pretty well with that. Not as well as you did with the digital X-ray equipment. And the people who worked with the X-rays worked very closely with the whole crystallographic community, American Crystallographic Association. The meetings would be—a lot of it would be descriptions of equipment and telling them what they should be thinking about. Yeah, there were some very dedicated people who worked on that.

Zierler:

Yeah. Are there mysteries that you were never able to solve that you felt like you were always on the cusp of getting to that remain? Or do you feel like, in your career, you reached a satisfactory endpoint to all of the avenues of inquiry that you pursued?

Glusker:

Well, not the last step[?].

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

I should have done a—I would have liked to have analyzed more completely how a lot of other metals—we did a lot of theoretical calculations and X-ray diffraction information material. And I would like to have done more elements, but somehow—

Zierler:

But that sounds like that's a logistical problem, not a theoretical problem. I'm asking if there are mysteries about the way that crystals behave or the way that the diffraction works that remain mysterious to you?

Glusker:

I think I've learnt a lot about them, because when you write a textbook you've got to investigate this. Yes. And explain that at the end to the reader. So, no, I expect they'll be a lot more things that will turn up and I won't be part of, but—

Zierler:

[laugh] Well, that gets me—

Glusker:

—it just was a very nice big part of the story. And, of course, what I was so lucky with was I was—I came into the story of using X-ray diffraction very early, so I knew all of the people who started the story. I mean, as you said, I'm old but, yeah—

Zierler:

I didn't say any such thing.

Glusker:

[laugh] Well, but—

Zierler:

I talked about six decades of work. I didn't say "old." [laugh]

Glusker:

Well, same thing, yes. But, yes, it was, it was great to see these people whose only interest was really to make sure that you could get the structure and hear them talk—be passionate about it and so on.

Zierler:

Well, that gets me, I think, to my last question. Where do you see your field headed? What are the things that remain to be discovered? And if you were a graduate student all over again, what would you pursue for the next six decades?

Glusker:

Well, if I was pursuing, I might think, I really like that Dave Hungerford story.

Zierler:

[laugh]

Glusker:

And it's—

Zierler:

In terms of what? What's so compelling about it?

Glusker:

In terms—well, they worked out what was happening. What was really happening. And I would like to get—I would like to do more in that, but I don't—I'm too old to think about, in detail, how I would do that now.

Zierler:

So what's so satisfying about that particular issue? That they saw a problem and they were able to solve it comprehensively?

Glusker:

Well, it was—through the years—have you read the book?

Zierler:

No, I have not.

Glusker:

And you—really, you, even if you just page through it, it's really worth a look at. They figured out what was going on with that poor person. And how to make it so that he could live a normal life. And, as I said, he can't—it wasn’t something where they could take out anything. They just had to give him a chemical that went through his body and made sure that the enzyme that didn't know about stopping making cells divide didn't work anymore.

Zierler:

Well, that's actually a nice close to the story, I think, because, as opposed to when you started at ICR and there was this assumption that one chemical could solve all the cancer, at least in this once case—

Glusker:

Yes, yes.

Zierler:

—with the Dave Hungerford story, at least there it proved to be true.

Glusker:

Yes, yes. But it—it proved to be true, but I didn't believe it—I mean, I believed that there were lots of causes.

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

Yes. My music teacher died of cancer, and I saw her just before she died. And it was—it's just one of those things that stays with you for the rest of your life—

Zierler:

Of course.

Glusker:

—the sadness. And I kept saying to my mother, "How did she get this, because her parents are still alive?"

Zierler:

Yeah.

Glusker:

But that's the way it goes.

Zierler:

Do you think there's a conceivable day at some point in the future when cancer will be something that is easily treatable and never a death sentence?

Glusker:

Well, I think you—I mean, I think we're going to have the same problem that we have with the coronavirus. We might be seeing some new forms that we didn't see before.

Zierler:

Uh-huh.

Glusker:

But—

Zierler:

New cancers, you mean?

Glusker:

Yes, yes. I don't know about that or—

Zierler:

Because cancer evolves, is that the idea?

Glusker:

I'm not sure if it's evolved, but I think it's a matter of definition. If you get cancer now, this is sort of this sort of cancer but it's not quite the same. And so we're dealing with a whole multitude of diseases, all of which have the same result, that things grow and—can you say that about the blood vessels? Well, anyway, in general, you have something that doesn’t stop growing or something that takes over the body. But I am pretty sure we'll be able to—we'll know how to deal with that. But I think we'll have other health problems to deal with.

Zierler:

Right. We might solve one set of problems and there's a new set of problems that we don't even see coming.

Glusker:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well, I guess this present problem is because people were eating bats, so—yes, yes. So there must be a lot of other things that people can eat that are going to give us different kind of diseases which might be cancer-like, so—but I don't think you can cut off the list—say we know all the kinds of cancer there are.

Zierler:

There's no clean endpoint?

Glusker:

Yes.

Zierler:

Right.

Glusker:

But then we may be in a ice age or a non-ice age, the opposite of an ice age, so—

Zierler:

Well, Jenny, it's been a great honor and pleasure to have this discussion with you.

Glusker:

So is this going to be given out to people or—

Zierler:

Yeah. I'll cut the interview here.

Glusker:

Yeah.

[End]