Vol 3. Issue 28 / September 27, 2004

Where Are They Now?
Alumnus Steve Bark Focuses on Science and Service

By Mika Ono

Those on campus wondering what happened to Steve Bark (The Scripps Research Institute Kellogg School of Science and Technology Class of'97) don't have far to look. That's because he currently directs two of the institute's core services—the Mass Spectrometry Open Access Facility and the Protein Sciences Core Facility.

"It's somewhat of a balancing act to run both facilities," says Steve (who asked that his first name be used in this article). "As long as I prioritize, though, it works. I go where I'm most needed."

A magna cum laude graduate of the University of California at Riverside, Steve entered the graduate program at Scripps Research in 1991 shortly after it was launched. He spent the first few years of graduate work investigating the design and synthesis of selective therapeutic agents for cancer chemotherapy, then went on to write his dissertation on "The Chemical Ligation of Unprotected Peptide Segments Using Auxiliary Functional Groups."

"The graduate program lived up to my hopes that it would have a multi-disciplinary focus," he says. "The program crossed the boundaries that I believed were artificial in the study of science."

Steve ended up staying at Scripps Research for his postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Klaus Hahn, again focusing on the chemistry of proteins.

When a position opened up in 2000 to run the institute's new Mass Spec Open Access Facility, Steve thought the position might be a good fit.

"The job looked interesting, especially given my background in chemistry," he says. "I also wanted to stay in San Diego for family reasons."

Steve helped establish the Mass Spec Open Access Facility, and about a year and a half later another opportunity came along. A director was needed for the Protein Sciences Core on campus. When Steve was asked if he would take on the responsibility of running that service as well, he answered a resounding "yes."

"The two facilities are highly complementary," he says, "While they are based on different technologies, both involve chemistry. Science is the common denominator."

A Tale of Two Facilities

The Open Access Facility, located in the Beckman Center for Chemical Sciences, provides advanced mass spectrometry instrumentation for the use of scientists in the Scripps Research community. The idea of hands-on use of this instrumentation has taken off, and now it is not uncommon for more than two dozen scientists to make use of the facility during the course of a week.

Steve supports these investigators. He provides training in the use of the instrumentation. Instruction for the simpler machines takes one to two hours; for the most complicated one, the LCQ Deca LC/MS/MS, approximately two weeks. Steve then troubleshoots the operation of the instruments and helps researchers with the design and interpretation of experiments.

"Solving scientific problems is my favorite part of the job," he notes.

On the other side of campus, in the 3050 Science Park Drive Building, the Protein Sciences Core offers Scripps Research scientists peptide synthesis and protein sequencing. Scientists from a wide variety of research fields, including molecular biology, cell biology, immunology, molecular and experimental medicine, and neuropharmacology, have need for such services.

Steve's biggest challenge in running the Scripps Research Protein Sciences Core has been to find a niche for the small non-profit service among large, for-profit competitors. "Many outside firms have the advantage of large economies of scale," Steve comments. "Our facility focuses on things that can be done more effectively here than in a profit-oriented company. We keep in mind our facility serves primarily Scripps investigators rather than the scientific community at large."

Steve's long-term goal is to develop research programs at the two core facilities that focus on the future technologies important for the institute—programs that he believes will not only add value to the facilities, but will also ultimately enable them to offer better service to scientists.

"Keeping abreast of the constantly changing technology in the field is a challenge," he says. "In developing a research program, the core facilities would shape as well as react to advances. And that would be good not only for research, but also for our researchers."

Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu


Steve Bark runs the Mass Spectrometry Open Access Facility and Protein Sciences Core Facility at Scripps Research.