Rings of Support

By Mika Ono

Much goes into earning a Ph.D.—long hours, hard work, tenacity... Most graduates are fueled in this endeavor by their passion for science and buoyed by the support of family and friends.

This support took an unusual twist for this year's class of The Scripps Research Institute's Kellogg School of Science and Technology. Four of the 16 students entering the Chemistry Program in 1998 fell in love and married each other during the course of their studies. All four are graduating this year.

"We were a social class," says graduate Winston Tse, who is now working as a medicinal chemist at Gilead Sciences in the San Francisco Bay Area. "Even outside of the coursework, we participated in a lot of activities together."

"Winston and I liked each other right away," adds graduate Martha Lovato, now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. "And, as they say, the rest is history!"

The story of Christopher Vanderwal, now a postdoc at Harvard University, and Danielle Soenen, now a chemist with Massachusetts start-up firm Scion Pharmaceuticals, is remarkably similar. Chris and Danielle met at the recruitment weekend for Scripps in the spring of '98, both were accepted into the entering class that fall, and, in the course of socializing with their classmates, quickly became friends—then more than friends.

Danielle and Chris married in 2001.

Winston and Martha married in 2002.

Both couples invited fellow lab members and their dissertation advisors—Professors Erik Sorensen and Dale Boger for Chris and Danielle's wedding, and Professors Boger and Paul Schimmel for Winston and Martha's wedding. "Dr. Schimmel was terrific on the dance floor!" notes Martha.

But then, after the nuptials were over, how was the experience of being married to another stressed-out graduate student struggling to complete a dissertation?

"It was perfect," said Martha, "Because Winston and I worked in the same building, we were close to each other 24 hours a day. And we could talk about chemistry. Our fields were close enough so we could understand each other, but different enough so we could contribute another point of view."

"We could have lunch together every day!" says Winston. "I miss that now."

Chris and Danielle echo these sentiments. "There was a lot of mutual support," notes Chris. "We really understood what each other was going through."

Danielle adds, "There was no one home to cook dinner—and that was fine."

The couples' thesis dedications reflect their appreciation for each other and for other important people in their lives. "For my Father and my Mother and for the love of my life, Martha," writes Winston. "To Winston—happy birthday," writes Martha. "Dedicated to my wife and family," says Chris. "Dedicated to my husband Chris, my parents Luc and Linda, and my brother Philippe," says Danielle.

The thesis dedications of other graduating students also reveal the circles of people who made the students' achievements possible—spouses, parents, grandparents, teachers, and mentors.

For example, the dedication of graduate Ing Wei Khor mentions both her grandfather, Khor Choo Eong, and the late dean of the Kellogg School program, Norton "Bernie" Gilula: "Bernie, you told us to go out there and make a discovery. Those words as well as your encouragement and belief in me will never be forgotten."

The individuals in the Kellogg School Class of '04 have much reason to be proud. So do those who shared their love, encouragement, and support with them.


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu




Four of the 16 students entering the Scripps Research Chemistry Program in 1998 fell in love and married each other during the course of their studies. Class of '04 graduates Winston Tse and Martha Lovato were two of them. Photo by Jason S. Bardi



Danielle Soenen and Christopher Vanderwall, also both Class of '04, first met at a Scripps Research recruitment weekend. Photo by Kevin Fung.