SciTalk

Dr. Frederick E. Samson, Jr.
Presenter


Dr. Samson hails from Medford, Massachusetts where he acquired his distinctive Boston accent. A member of the Army Medical Corps in World War II, he served in the Pacific Theatre for two years. With the advent of WW II, Pearl Harbor & the G.I. Bill he was enabled to pursue his degree studies. He turned to Osteopathic Medicine but also earned a Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Chicago. He continues to work today at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, KS where he is Professor Emeritus. The road to KC followed memberships and affiliations in nearly every major physiology, cell biology and neurobiology society and association, including leadership positions on program committees, meeting committees and officerships, and advisory positions re critical care decision-making for patients with ALS, newborns with disabilities and fatigue management. His prodigious analytical abilities have been put to the test on all major grant review committees.

Dr. Samson has chaired three departments at the University of Kansas, worked as a Visiting Professor in Chile and variously as a Resident/Staff Scientist at MIT in the Neurosciences Research Program--where he coedited several superb bulletins with F.O. Schmitt. He mentored several doctoral students at the University of Kansas (Lawrence) before moving to the Medical Center as a Professor of Physiology. He assumed a leadership role there as Director of the Center for Mental Retardation and Human Development. His success as a researcher is remarkable--he has held continuous grant support since 1954! His past doctoral students number among some of the finest neurobiologists actively working today.

Glance at his publications and you quickly find that they go beyond his current work on "Energy flow in nervous tissue: brain regional glucose use, neurotoxins, neurobiological aspects of mental retardation, oxygen free radicals." Earlier work focused on axoplasmic transport, microtubules and microfilaments in nervous tissue. More than 100 papers, numerous chapters in neurobiology texts, books edited, and a like assortment of professional meeting presentations have flowed from this remarkably productive and eclectic scientist. FES, as he is known affectionately by his students and colleagues, is especially adept at brainstorming--being a potent developer of creative thinking in the bench scientist in training. Memorable sessions in his office allowed us to explore ideas, extending and stretching our grey matter. These sessions stimulated many to reexamine our protocols or go back to the lab bench to try some new approach to solving a problem.

Always fit, FES retained his signature stoagies until scientific data convinced him of the negative impact of smoking on health. We thought he had been a gymnast or trampoline artist--because he would entertain students in physiology with his athletic prowess--bolting into a handstand in the middle of his lecture on the circulation! With this device he demonstrated how the valves in the veins of his muscular arms controlled blood flow when he was inverted but quickly opened up again when he was upright. He explains: "I was in vaudeville as a novelty hand-balancer acrobatic act (there was such a thing in 1939-1941--without TV, live entertainment was used at weddings, Elk's clubs, bar lounges, even movie houses while they changed the film spools on their single spool projectors). I worked in almost every little joint in New England & Upper New York State. That's how I learned how to do hand stands & tumbling acrobatics - thinking back on them today I'm amazed that I had the nerve to do them, even after some nasty falls." Today, Professor Samson remains physically and intellectually active--swimming regularly in the lake near his home, water-skiing and maintaining a full and active research and consulting schedule. He continues to exhibit unfailing curiosity about all aspects of the human condition, and excitement about the scientific process. Asked about his choice of a career in science, he writes: "How did I happen to become a scientist? When I went to the University of Chicago I thought I'd try to go to medical school but when I heard the wonderful lectures by the science faculty there I knew it was science that I wanted for a career." A mentor, friend and colleague to many, he recommends the book, Advice to a Young Scientist by P.P. Medawar, for those interested in a career in science.


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