Renato and Maureen Dulbecco

Believers in the Power of Education

For highly creative thinkers in the sciences, Southern California in the early 1960’s was an exciting place to be. For Maureen Dulbecco and her late husband, Renato, the chemistry carried over outside of the laboratory.

The two native Europeans—she is from Scotland, he was from Italy—met in Pasadena while working at Caltech. They married and moved to La Jolla when Jonas Salk enticed Renato, an M.D. and scientist, to help launch the Salk Institute. Maureen was also recruited as a research scientist. UC San Diego was in its infancy then, and the region was buzzing with brilliant minds laying groundwork in science and technology fields. Over the years the Dulbeccos contributed to institutions here and abroad, living for periods in London and Italy. Although she still spends time in Switzerland, La Jolla is home base for Maureen.

The Dulbeccos have been longtime UC San Diego supporters because they agree that education is most important, and UC San Diego is a terrific place. They believe that if someone is qualified enough to get in, they should try to help those who were accepted but cannot afford to attend. Maureen continues to give generously to UC San Diego through Chancellor’s Associates each year and supports undergraduate scholarships directly. She is also a strong believer in the Shiley Eye Center's outreach to underserved children. "The research at UCSD is just phenomenal," says Maureen.

Renato was an accomplished Nobel laureate who served on the UC San Diego School of Medicine faculty for thirty-five years, and was honored with the title of Professor Emeritus in Pathology. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1975 along with David Baltimore and Howard Temin for their genetic discoveries in oncoviruses, the cause of some forms of human cancer. Among his many other achievements, Renato was also a part of the team that launched the Human Genome Project in 1986.

Carrying forward the family legacy, daughter Fiona studied at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, and today she is a cardiologist practicing in the Bay Area. When asked if the child of scientists and a Nobel laureate might have felt some career pressure, Maureen says, “It came to us as a surprise! Fiona went to Williams as an undergraduate, and her major was English Literature. We never pushed her toward the sciences."

Perhaps not overtly, but they could not resist an experiment: "I once asked Jonas [Salk] how his three boys became doctors," says Maureen, "and he told me, don't ever mention the word to them!"