H. Robert Horvitz on Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  H. Robert Horvitz     Biography    
Recorded: 09 Apr 2001

Cold Spring Harbor is a mecca. People go to Cold Spring Harbor almost as a religious experience in certain fields because it’s a center. It’s a center for certain aspects of research, but even more than that, it’s a center to which people go because it’s a center. The Symposium draws people; it draws top people; it’s drawn people for many years and it’s drawn people from a great diversity in biological fields. People go there and they see colleagues they might not encounter in other places. Many people go to essentially the same meeting over and over at different locales. The Cold Spring Harbor meetings, generally speaking, cut the groups of people in different ways. You see different people. You interact not only with the scientists who are there but the great many visitors that come through for these different meetings. You go to meetings to participate, you go to Cold Spring Harbor to teach in courses. Many of us have taught in many of the courses at Cold Spring Harbor proper and at Banbury. You go there and you meet colleagues, you meet new people, you meet young people, sometimes you meet people who are interested in working with you, who are taking courses, and who you’ll be able to watch develop later through their entire careers. So it’s a center, it draws people for many reasons: the educational, the scientific, and the research. And I distinguish the scientific research from the scientific meetings and research that’s actually on going there—and basically brings it all together in a synergistic way. Also, with to the respect to the number of the leaders who have been there—and Jim is certainly the clearest example—it’s a place to go because of who is there in terms of their other interests.

H. Robert Horvitz received his Ph.D. in 1974 from Harvard University, under the tutelage of Jim Watson. He joined the MIT Department of Biology faculty in 1978, and was named David Koch Professor of Biology in 2000. He is also Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and was appointed Investigator at the McGovern Institute in 2001.

Horvitz is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience. In 2002, he was award the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Sydney Brenner and John Sulston “for their discoveries concerning 'genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death'."

Horvitz currently studies how genes control the development of the nervous system and how the nervous system controls behavior. He has elucidated a molecular genetic pathway for programmed cell death (apoptosis), which is fundamental to nervous system development in all animals.