The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Balz Frei Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

January 10, 2014


“Leading the Linus Pauling Institute”  January 10, 2014  Location: Linus Pauling Science Center, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Frei discusses his upbringing in Winterthur, Switzerland, including his family background and early interests. From there, Frei recollects his undergraduate and graduate experience at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, including the beginnings of his work in biochemistry, his first research program, his mentor Christoph Richter and meeting his wife, Simone. Frei's first trip to the United States, for a fellowship at the University of North Texas, is recounted as is Frei's tenure in the influential Bruce Ames Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. Frei notes the development of his research while in Berkeley as well as his impressions of and contacts with Linus Pauling and the struggling Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine.

After a discussion of his years in New England at Harvard University and Boston University, Frei moves on to his tenure at OSU. He begins by recalling his initial recruitment and hire as Director of the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU, including his first impressions of campus, early allies of LPI and the sharpening of the Institute's mission statement. He describes the ways in which his worked changed as he assumed a heavier administrative burden and, in particular, recounts the story behind the fundraising, design and construction of the Linus Pauling Science Center. The interview concludes with Frei's thoughts on the future of the Institute and with words of advice on how we all might live longer and healthier lives.