Interviews with leading experts recorded at CSHL's
74th Symposium on Evolution - the Molecular Landscape

Interviews recorded May 27 - June 2, 2009, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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All interviews recorded at Cold Spring Harbor, New York May/June 2009. Copyright (2009) by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

 
LEIF ANDERSSON & JOHN DOEBLEY interviewed by JANE ALFRED


Leif Andersson’s interest in biology began by watching birds in Sweden as a child. Leif Andersson is today professor in Functional Genomics at Uppsala University and guest professor in Molecular Animal Genetics at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala. The work throughout his career has been inspired by Charles Darwin’s insight that domestic animals provide outstanding models for understanding the mechanisms of phenotypic evolution. Leif Andersson and his group have successfully used molecular genetics and genomics to unravel the molecular basis for phenotypic diversity in domestic animals, from coat colour to metabolic traits. His group has generated highly informative intercrosses between the wild boar and domestic pigs as well as between the red junglefowl and domestic chicken. The overall aim is to identify functionally important mutations that provide new insight into basic biology and that lead to practical applications in agriculture and human medicine.

John Doebley is a Professor of Genetics and a member of the Plant Breeding Faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Doebley holds a B.A. in Anthropology from West Chester State College (1974) and a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1980). He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2002), a Fellow in the AAAS (1991), and a member of Phi Kappa Phi (1975) and Sigma Xi (1980). He has received the Gamma Sigma Delta's Award of Merit for Outstanding Service to Agriculture (1992) and the Kellet Mid-Career Award at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2000). In 2005, he served as President of the American Genetic Association. He has served a member of several editorial boards, advisor boards and panels. Doebley is a geneticist who studies how genes control changes in plant morphology during domestication with a focus on maize. In particular, he has studied the long-standing question of the nature of the genetic differences between maize and its ancestor, teosinte, and his laboratory has cloned and characterized two of the major genes that cause the visible differences between these two very different plants.

FRANCES ARNOLD & JACK SZOSTAK interviewed by RICHARD SEVER


Frances H. Arnold is the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, where her research focuses on evolution of biological systems in the laboratory. Frances Arnold has co-authored 220 scientific publications and edited several books on protein engineering and laboratory protein evolution. She also has more than 40 patents and patent applications. Prof. Arnold has received numerous awards and honors, including election to the National Academy of Engineering in 2000, the Institute of Medicine in 2004, and the National Academy of Sciences in 2008.

Jack W. Szostak
is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, and the Alex Rich Distinguished Investigator in the Dept. of Molecular Biology and the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital. His current research interests are in the laboratory synthesis of self-replicating systems, the origin of life, and applied evolutionary chemistry. He and his colleagues developed in vitro selection as a tool for the isolation of rare functional RNA, DNA and protein molecules from large pools of random sequences. His laboratory has used in vitro selection and directed evolution to isolate and characterize numerous nucleic acid sequences with specific ligand binding and catalytic properties. For this work, Dr. Szostak was awarded, along with Dr. Gerald Joyce, the 1994 National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology and the 1997 Sigrist Prize from the University of Bern. Dr. Szostak is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2000, Dr. Szostak was awarded the Medal of the Genetics Society of America, and in 2006 Dr. Szostak shared the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider. Dr. Szostak is the 2008 recipient of the H.P. Heineken Prize in Biophysics and Biochemistry.






CARLOS BUSTAMANTE interviewed by Orli Bahcall

Carlos D. Bustamante is Professor of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell University. His research focuses on analyzing genome wide patterns of variation within and between species to address fundamental questions in evolutionary biology, anthropology, and medical genetics. His group works on a variety of organisms and model systems ranging from humans and other primates to domesticated plant and animals to large scale simulations of microevolution. Much of his research is at the interface of computational biology, mathematical genetics, and genomics and is funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
SEAN CARROLL interviewed by Jane Alfred

Sean Carroll is Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics and Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Carroll's research has centered on those genes that control body patterns and play major roles in the evolution of animal diversity. He is the author of the new book Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species (2009) and of The Making of the Fittest (2006) which won the Phi Beta Kappa 2007 Science Book Award and of Endless Forms Most Beautiful : The New Science of Evo Devo (2005), which was a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Science and Technology) His first two books are the foundation for, and Dr. Carroll is the scientific consulting producer of, a new two-hour NOVA special being prepared for broadcast in 2009 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s The Origin of Species.
Dr. Carroll is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, the Distinguished Service Award of the National Association of Biology Teachers, and numerous honorary lectureships. Dr. Carroll earned his B.A. in Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, his Ph.D. in Immunology at Tufts Medical School, and carried out his postdoctoral research with Dr. Matthew Scott at the University of Colorado-Boulder.



THOMAS CECH interviewed by Richard Sever

Thomas Cech
was raised and educated in Iowa (B.A. in chemistry from Grinnell College, 1970). He obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and then engaged in postdoctoral research in the department of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1978 he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 1988 and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1990. In 1982 Dr. Cech and his research group announced that an RNA molecule from Tetrahymena, a single-celled pond organism, cut and rejoined chemical bonds in the complete absence of proteins. Thus RNA was not restricted to being a passive carrier of genetic information, but could have an active role in cellular metabolism. This discovery of self-splicing RNA provided the first exception to the long-held belief that biological reactions are always catalyzed by proteins. In addition, it has been heralded as providing a new, plausible scenario for the origin of life; because RNA can be both an information-carrying molecule and a catalyst, perhaps the first self-reproducing system consisted of RNA alone. In January 2000, Dr. Cech moved to Maryland as president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which is the nation’s largest private biomedical research organization. In addition, HHMI has an $80 million/year grants program that supports science education at all levels (K-12 through medical school) and international research. Dr. Cech's work has been recognized by many national and international awards and prizes, including the Heineken Prize of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (1988), the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (1988), the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1989), and the National Medal of Science (1995). In 1987 Dr. Cech was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and also awarded a lifetime professorship by the American Cancer Society. In April 2009 Dr. Cech will return full-time to the University of Colorado as the director of the Colorado Institute for Molecular Biotechnology.


BRIAN CHARLESWORTH interviewed by Matt Ridley
 

Brian Charlesworth
is Professor and Head of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Edinburgh. He obtained his PhD in genetics at Cambridge in 1969, and was a postdoctoral fellow with Richard Lewontin at the University of Chicago. He subsequently worked at the Universities of Liverpool, Sussex and Chicago, moving to Edinburgh as a Royal Society Research Professor in 1997. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His current research interests are in population genetics, molecular evolution and genome evolution. He has published over 200 research papers and two books (one co-authored with Deborah Charlesworth).
ERIC DAVIDSON interviewed by Jane Alfred

Eric H. Davidson
is the Norman Chandler Professor of Cell Biology at the California Institute of Technology. He received a B.S. degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. degree from Rockefeller University. He is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the AAAS. The major focus of research in his laboratory is on gene networks that control development and their evolution. Areas of research include the transcriptional mechanisms by which specification of embryonic blastomeres occurs early in development; structure/function relationships in developmental cis-regulatory systems; sea urchin genomics; and regulatory evolution in the bilaterians.

DANIEL DENNETT & EUGENIE SCOTT interviewed by John Inglis



Daniel C. Dennett, the author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Simon & Schuster, 1995), is University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He lives with his wife in North Andover,Massachusetts, and has a daughter, a son, and two grandsons. He was born in Boston in 1942, the son of a historian by the same name, and received his B.A. in philosophy from Harvard in 1963. He then went to Oxford to work with Gilbert Ryle, under whose supervision he completed the D.Phil. in philosophy in 1965. He taught at U.C. Irvine from 1965 to 1971, when he moved to Tufts, where he has taught ever since, aside from periods visiting at Harvard, Pittsburgh, Oxford, and the Ecole Normal Superieure in Paris. He is the author of over three hundred scholarly articles on various aspects on the mind, published in journals ranging from Artificial Intelligence and Behavioral and Brain Sciences to Poetics Today and the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

Eugenie C. Scott is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., a not for profit membership organization of scientists, teachers, and others that works to improve the teaching of evolution, and of science as a way of knowing. It opposes the teaching of “scientific” creationism and other religiously-based views in science classes. A former university professor, Scott is the author of Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction, co-editor (with Glenn Branch) of Not In Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong For Our Schools, and the author of many articles in science journals and popular magazines. She has served as President of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and has chaired both the Anthropology and Education sections of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has been honored by both scientists and educators in having been awarded, among others, the National Science Board Public Service Award and the National Association of Biology Teachers Honorary Membership award, “the association’s highest honor.” She holds six honorary degrees.


RUSSELL DOOLITTLE interviewed by Jan Witkowski

Russell F. Doolittle is in the Departments of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, San Diego. His long time research interests have centered around the structure and evolution of proteins. In recent years his experimental work has dealt with the X-ray crystallography of fibrinogen and fragments of fibrin, but he has also maintained a sustained interest in the evolution of blood coagulation, a project he initiated while a graduate student. Professor Doolittle received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. During the year 1961-62 he was an Instructor of biology at Amherst College, after which he was an N.I.H. postdoctoral fellow in Sweden. He moved to UCSD in 1964, where he has remained throughout his career.

NIALL FERGUSON interviewed by Matt Rridley

Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

His first book, Paper and Iron (1995), was short-listed for the History Today Book of the Year award, while the collection of essays he edited, Virtual History (1997), was a UK bestseller. In 1998 he published to international critical acclaim The Pity of War and The House of Rothschild, the latter of which won the Wadsworth Prize for Business History. In 2001, after a stint at the Bank of England as a Houblon-Norman Fellow, he published The Cash Nexus.

Since moving to the U.S., he has published Empire (2004); Colossus (2004) and The War of the World (2006). His latest book is The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (2008). All these books have formed the basis for television documentaries, notably The War of the World, which aired on PBS in the summer of 2008. Niall Ferguson is also a contributing editor of the Financial Times.

HOPI HOEKSTRA interviewed by John Inglis

Hopi E. Hoekstra received her B.A. in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley. She completed her Ph.D. in 2000 as a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington. For her dissertation work, she received the Ernst Mayr Award from the Society for Systematic Biology. She then moved to the University of Arizona as a NIH Postdoctoral Fellow where she studied the genetic basis of adaptive melanism in pocket mice and was awarded the American Society of Naturalists Young Investigator Prize. In 2003, she became an Assistant Professor UC San Diego and was named a Beckman Young Investigator. In 2007, she moved to Harvard University, where she is a John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Biology in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and the Curator of Mammals at the Museum of Comparative Zoology. She serves as an associate editor of Evolution, a member of Faculty of 1000, on the council of the Society for the Study of Evolution and the American Genetics Association and the scientific advisory board of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center.


NICOLE KING interviewed by Jan Witkowski

Nicole King is reconstructing a seminal event in evolution – the transition to multicellularity that set the stage for animal origins. The King lab focuses on choanoflagellates, the closest known relatives of animals, and sponges, the earliest branching animal phylum. Using comparative genomics in choanoflagellates and sponges, this work has revealed that diverse gene families required for animal cell interactions evolved before the origin of animal multicelluarity. Current research in the King lab addresses the functions of choanoflagellate homologs of animal genes, and the mechanisms by which choanoflagellates detect and respond to prey bacteria.

Nicole received a B.S. (1992) from Indiana University, Bloomington, and an A.M. (1996) and a Ph.D. (1999) from Harvard University. King performed postdoctoral research (2000-2003) in the laboratory of Sean Carroll at the University of Wisconsin. Since 2003, she has been an assistant professor of genetics, genomics, and development in the Departments of Molecular and Cell Biology and Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. King was named a Pew Biomedical Scholar in 2004, received the George A. Bartholomew Award in Comparative Physiology from the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in 2004, and was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2005.



SUSAN LINDQUIST interviewed by Orli Bahcall

Susan Lindquist
is a member, and former Director, of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where she guided it through the formation of the neighboring Broad Institute. She is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Professor of Biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She received her PhD in Biology from Harvard in 1976 and was a postdoctoral fellow of the American Cancer Society. She was named the Albert D. Lasker Professor of Medical Sciences in 1999 at the University of Chicago. Professor Lindquist was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1997 and the Institute of Medicine in 2006. Her honors also include the Dickson Prize in Medicine, the Sigma Xi William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement, designation by Scientific American as one of the top 50 leaders in business, policy, and research for 2006, and the Centennial Medal of the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Lindquist has mentored many highly successful young scientists and has been particularly active in her efforts to support talented young women scientists.
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ROBERT MARTIENSSEN interviewed by Angelica Cibrian

Rob Martienssen
is a Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Dr. Martienssen obtained his PhD at the Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge University. He received postdoctoral training at the University of California, Berkeley, and joined the faculty at Cold Spring Harbor in 1989. Research in Dr. Martienssen's laboratory focuses on epigenetic mechanisms that shape and regulate the genome, and their impact on development and inheritance. His work on transposable elements in plants and repetitive sequences in fission yeast revealed a link between heterochromatin and RNA interference. He received the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Award in 2003, and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006.

DAVID PAGE interviewed by Jan Witkowski

David Page
studies the genetic and developmental foundations of human reproduction, including genetic differences between males and females. His laboratory conducts DNA sequence-based explorations of human and other vertebrate sex chromosomes, with particular attention to the male-specific Y chromosome and its roles in sperm production and male infertility. The Page laboratory is also elucidating how sex cells – the precursors of eggs and sperm – arise and develop in mammalian embryos and adults.

The Page laboratory reconstructed the evolution of today's X and Y chromosomes from an ancestral pair of chromosomes that existed 300 million years ago. His laboratory discovered molecular evolutionary mechanisms by which the Y chromosome became functionally specialized in spermatogenesis. The Page laboratory also discovered and characterized the most common genetic cause of spermatogenic failure in humans: deletion of the AZFc region of the Y chromosome.

In 2003, working in concert with the Washington University Genome Sequencing Center, Page and colleagues completed sequencing of the human Y chromosome, and in doing so discovered that most of the Y chromosome’s sperm production genes exist as mirror-image pairs on massive palindromes. They determined that these palindromes are sites of frequent gene conversion and, thus, that the male-specific chromosome continues to actively recombine despite the absence of conventional crossing over with a partner chromosome.

David Page earned a B.A. from Swarthmore College in 1978 and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program in 1984. He immediately joined the Whitehead Institute as the first Whitehead Fellow, and he has remained there since. He is presently an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Professor of Biology at MIT, and Director of the Whitehead Institute. His honors include Science magazine’s Top 10 Scientific Advances of the Year (in 1992 and again in 2003) and a MacArthur Prize Fellowship. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 and to the Institute of Medicine in 2008.


VENKI RAMAKRISHNAN interviewed by Angelica Cibrian

Venki Ramakrishnan
grew up in India and moved to the U.S.A. in 1971. After initially being trained as a physicist at Ohio University, he switched to biology in 1976 at the University of California, San Diego. His interest in ribosomes dates back to 1978 when he joined Peter Moore’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. He began his independent career at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1983. In 1995 he moved to the University of Utah to become a professor of biochemistry. Finally, in 1999, he moved to his current position as a scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. In the past, he has also been interested in chromatin structure and in x-ray crystallographic methods. He currently focuses entirely on ribosome structure and function. In 2000, his laboratory determined the atomic structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit and its complexes with ligands and antibiotics. This work has led to insights into how the ribosome “reads” the genetic code, as well as into various aspects of antibiotic function. In 2006, his laboratory determined the atomic structure of the entire ribosome bound to its mRNA and tRNA substrates, which has led to studies on the termination of protein synthesis. Ramakrishnan is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.


LUCY SHAPIRO interviewed by

Lucy Shapiro holds the Virginia and D. K. Ludwig Chair in the Department of Developmental Biology and is the Director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She joined the faculty at the Stanford University School of Medicine in 1989 and served as the founding Chairman of the Department of Developmental Biology from 1989-1997. Prior to coming to Stanford, Professor Shapiro was the Higgins Professor and Chair of Microbiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. She founded the anti-infectives discovery company, Anacor Pharmaceuticals, in 2001 and is currently a non-executive director of Gen-Probe, Inc. Professor Shapiro was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. She was awarded the FASEB Excellence in Science Award, and the 2005 Selman A. Waksman Prize from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.




BRUCE STILLMAN interviewed by Jane Alfred

Bruce Stillman is President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on the north shore of Long Island in New York. A native of Australia, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree with honors at Sydney University and a Ph. D. at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University. He then moved to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 1979 and has been at the Laboratory ever since, being promoted to the scientific staff in 1981. Dr. Stillman has been Director of the Cancer Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory since 1992, a position he still holds. In 1994, he succeeded Dr. James D. Watson as Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and was appointed President in 2003.

Dr. Stillman's research focuses on the mechanism and regulation of duplication of DNA and chromatin in cells, a process that ensures accurate inheritance of genetic information from one cell generation to the next.

For these research accomplishments, Dr. Stillman has received a number of honors including election as a Fellow of The Royal Society in 1993. In 1994, Dr. Stillman was awarded the Julian Wells Medal (Australia) and in 1999, Dr. Stillman was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for service to scientific research. Dr. Stillman was elected in 2000 to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In 2004, Dr. Stillman was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation with Dr. Thomas Kelly. In 2006 he received the American Cancer Society Basic Science Award from the Society of Surgical Oncology. He has also received three honorary doctorates.



PAUL TURNER interviewed by Angelica Cibrian


Paul Turner received his Ph.D. in 1995 from the Center for Microbial Ecology, at Michigan State University. He did postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health, University of Valencia in Spain, and University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Turner is currently Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University, and a faculty member in the Microbiology Program at Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Turner currently serves as an Associate Editor for the journal Evolution, and as the Chair of American Society for Microbiology’s Division R: Evolutionary and Genomic Microbiology.

Dr. Turner’s work involves basic research in evolutionary biology and the evolution of disease, often harnessing laboratory populations of microbes to study their evolution-in-action. He also conducts applied research on novel approaches to treat infectious diseases of humans and other organisms. Dr. Turner heads a research group with diverse interests; current members are using microbes to address questions relating to the evolution of genetic exchange (sex), host-parasite interactions, pathogen emergence, biogeography, the ecology and evolution of infectious disease, and development of novel antimicrobials. His research program is highly inter-disciplinary, employing techniques from microbiology, population genetics, genomics, molecular biology and mathematical
modeling. Lab website


J. CRAIG VENTER interviewed by Jan Witkowski

J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., a pioneering genomic scientist, is Founder, Chairman, and President of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a 400 person not-for-profit, research organization dedicated to human, microbial, plant, synthetic, and environmental genomic and policy research. He is also Founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately-held company dedicated to developing and commercializing genomic-driven solutions to address issues starting with energy and the environment.
DOUGLAS WALLACE interviewed by Richard Sever

Douglas C. Wallace
has been a pioneer in the study of human mitochondrial genetics and the role of mitochondrial DNA variation in human evolution, disease, cancer, and aging. In the 1970s Dr. Wallace defined the basic principles of human mitochondrial DNA genetics, demonstrating that the human mitochondrial DNA encodes heritable traits, is maternally transmitted, has a high mutation rate, that intracellular mixtures on mutant and normal mitochondrial DNA are common and can segregate randomly during both mitotic and meiotic cell division, and that the clinical phenotype of a mutation depends on the severity of the mitochondrial defect and the reliance of each individual tissue on mitochondrial energy production. Once Dr. Wallace had defined the basic principles of mitochondrial DNA genetics, he applied these principles to the investigation of human origins and disease. Dr. Wallace also identified the first maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA diseases and has subsequently shown that deleterious mitochondrial DNA mutations are common and result in a plethora of complex multi-system diseases which encompasses all of the clinical phenotypes associated with aging, including neurological problems such as deafness, blindness, movement disorders, and dementias; cardiovascular disease; muscle degeneration and pain; renal dysfunction; endocrine disorders including diabetes, cancer, etc.


EDWARD O WILSON interviewed by Jan Witkowski  



Edward O. Wilson was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1929. He received his B.S. and M.S. in biology from the University of Alabama and, in 1955, his Ph.D. in biology from Harvard, where he taught for four decades, receiving both of its college-wide teaching awards. He is currently University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard, and Honorary Curator in Entomology of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. He is the recipient of more than 100 international medals and awards, including the National Medal of Science; the International Prize for Biology from Japan; the Catalonia Prize of Spain; the Presidential Medal of Italy; the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, given in fields of science not covered by the Nobel Prize; and for his conservation efforts, the Gold Medal of the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Audubon Medal of the National Audubon Society. He is the author of 25 books two of which won Pulitzer Prizes, Human Nature (1978) and The Ants (1990, with Bert Hölldobler). Six of Wilson’s books compose two trilogies. The first, The Insect Societies, Sociobiology, and On Human Nature (1971–78) founded sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. The second, The Diversity of Life, The Future of Life, and The Creation (1992–2006) organized the base of modern biodiversity conservation. Wilson has served on the Boards of Directors of The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and the American Museum of Natural History, and gives many lectures throughout the world. His most recent books includes Consilience (1998), which argues for the uniting of the natural sciences with the humanities. In 2003 he conceived the idea of the Encyclopedia of Life, which has since come to fruition. Wilson lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, with his wife, Irene.
 
   
INTERVIEWERS
 
JANE ALFRED  

Jane Alfred is the Executive Editor of Development. After doing her PhD and post doctoral research in developmental genetics at the MRC Human Genetics Unit and at Edinburgh University, Jane left research to take up an editorial post at the Trends journals in Cambridge, UK, where she became the Editor of Trends in Genetics. She then moved to Nature Publishing Group where she joined the editorial team that launched one of the first Nature Reviews journals, Nature Reviews Genetics. In 2002, she became Editor-in-Chief of Nature Reviews Genetics and in 2003 took up the post of Executive Editor at Development.

 
ORLI BAHCALL  

Orli Bahcall obtained her Ph.D. from Imperial College, London, in epidemiology and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases. As a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, she completed an M.Sc. in Epidemiology. Her first degree was from MIT Biology, where she researched DNA replication in S. cerevisiae. She also served as an assistant news editor of MIT's student newspaper, The Tech, and participated in the MIT-Washington Policy Internship program, serving at the NIH. She joined the Nature Genetics team in 2004.
 
ANGELICA CIBRIAN  

Angelica Cibrian completed a bachelor's degree in Biology while enjoying Mexico City's busy landscape, the city where she grew up. At the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico she focused on the conservation of genetic resources of the wild populations of cultivated plants, in particular of wild vanilla. She arrived as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Massachusetts Boston and explored the comparative genomics of sunflower and Arabidopsis as her Master’s thesis. In 2007 she received a PhD from the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Environmental Biology at Columbia University, with her work on the conservation genetics of wild understory Chamaedorea palms in Mexico, which evaluates the genetic structure of three ecologically contrasting yet sympatric understory palms with ornamental importance worldwide. Angelica also completed a certificate in Environmental Policy at Columbia University and has worked in NGOs and international organizations including Bioversity International (former IPGRI) in plant conservation. She has mentored at least seven undergraduates and one master’s student and enjoys teaching, which she has done in various institutions. From 2007 to 2009 she began working on the population genetics of a recently endangered cycad in Guam as a postdoctoral fellow at The New York Botanical Garden. She is currently a Dorothy and Lewis Cullman postdoctoral fellow at the American Museum of Natural History continuing with the cycad work, exploring the use barcoding for tracking invasive insects, and returning to comparative genomics in major groups of plants.
 
JOHN INGLIS  
John Inglis graduated from Edinburgh University Medical School with a Ph.D. in immunology and joined the editorial staff of the weekly medical journal The Lancet. Three years later, Inglis founded the monthly review journal, Immunology Today (now Trends in Immunology) and edited it for seven years while helping start other, similar journals. He also wrote articles on biomedicine for newspapers and New Scientist magazine.

In 1987, Inglis came to Cold Spring Harbor to found the Laboratory's Press, building on a publishing program that then consisted of the annual symposium volumes, a handful of monographs and manuals, and the new journal Genes & Development. Today, the Press has 60 staff members and an international distribution network. It publishes 6 journals, over 200 books, and a variety of electronic media, with audiences that include scientists, students, and the general public. Our mission is to create information sources of exceptional value and deliver them with the most appropriate technologies, online and in electronic and print form. These publications contribute significantly to the Laboratory’s financial health, its international reputation, and its broad educational goals.

Inglis' personal publications include the editing of four books, including Inspiring Science and most recently Davenport's Dream, a consideration of eugenic thinking from a 21st century perspective.

 
MATT RIDLEY  
Matt Ridley is the author of several popular books about genetics and evolution, including The Red Queen, The Origins of Virtue, Nature via Nurture and Genome. His biography of Francis Crick won the Davis prize of the history of science society. He lives in Newcastle in northern England.
 
RICHARD SEVER  
Richard Sever is currently Acquisitions Editor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. He obtained his PhD at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, having studied Biochemistry as an undergraduate at Oxford University. He has worked an editor on several journals, including Current Opinion in Cell Biology, Trends in Biochemical Sciences and, most recently, Journal of Cell Science, where he was Executive Editor.
 
JAN WITKOWSKI  
Jan Witkowski is Executive Director of the Banbury Center at CSHL, holding some 24 meetings each year, covering topics in molecular and cell biology; human genetics; neuroscience; biotechnology; and societal issues of modern biology. He obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry at NIMR, London., and carried out postdoc research at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, the Mayo Clinic, and ICRF. He ran a DNA diagnostic laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine before moving CSHL. He has published numerous papers on human genetics and the history of experimental biology and is a coauthor with Jim Watson of the textbook Recombinant DNA: Genes and Genomes. Witkowski is editor-in-chief of Trends in Biochemical Sciences.
 
       
 

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All interviews recorded at Cold Spring Harbor, New York May/June 2009. Copyright (2009) by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

 

 

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