Recorded: 01 May 2000
Amar: This was more like a Cold Spring Harbor style. They will bet on somebody young and the story is not fully grown up yet but they know it’s going that way and they are very smart. I think that Cold Spring Harbor benefited. We benefited from Cold Spring Harbor, and vice versa.
Jeff: I think that’s one of Jim [Watson]’s major strengths. When he was focusing on the health of the laboratory, I think one of his greatest skills – partly through this communication network that Amar described when they were tracking Amar down to hire him – was identifying problems that were about to be solvable and the people who could do it. If you have that kind of talent and just keep bringing those kinds of individuals to the laboratory, it has to be successful. Even if you get a third of them right, if you actually bring in the person that solves the important problem, the health of Cold Spring Harbor just kept getting stronger. I think that’s a talent he has.
Amar: In that same token, when Jeff was already there, Jim Hicks is hired… They made Jim Hicks defend the project and he gave a talk in the James Lab to very few people: About five, six people and Jim Watson. Jim Hicks made a good case for it, that this looks like DNA moving, and it looks like it’s interesting. And they said, “That’s all well and good. That’s terrific.” This is the story that Jim Hicks told me. They said, “Who’s this guy, Amar Klar? Is he Indian or Pakistani, because he wanted a cricket player. We could form a team!”
So Jim Hicks said, “He is a good guy. I play tennis with him. And he gave a talk here at the meeting.”
Then they all decided, “Lets invite him for the seminar.”
And Dave Zipser was sitting in the back, he was one of the five people, and he raised his hand and said, “Okay let me hear it again. There’s a guy you want him to come join you? Tell us what he’s done.”
So Jim drew this—what I talked about before—the silent gene and if you make mutations, isolate mutations and you can move them to the map. And therefore, we think we are right. Then Dave Zipser, Jim Hicks tells me, said, “Now I got it. You guys have a model proved it right and that’s why you want to get together.”
Jim Hicks said, “Well, I guess that’s what I’m saying.” But still, of the five people that wanted to invite me for a seminar – so now this is Jim Watson – “Why waste his time? Why waste our time? He came here. He gave the best talk, as far as he knows, of the meeting. This is good stuff.” So Ray wrote and he said we don’t want to waste his time, because he got wind that I’m on the job market, and Jim wouldn’t want any of that. So Jim Hicks and Jeff—they got together and I think it was best.
Jeff: That’s a real talent that Jim [Watson] has, when he focuses on that task. The consequence for Cold Spring Harbor was very good. You know.
Amar Klar and Jeff Strathern worked together in the Cold Spring Harbor Yeast group from 1977 till 1984 where they made outstanding discoveries about the mechanism of mating type switching in yeast.
Amar Klar, is a leading yeast geneticist, concerned with the molecular biology of gene silencing and mating-type switching. Klar came from India to the University of Wisconsin in 1975 to receive his Ph.D. in bacteriology. From 1977 to 1984, he worked with Jeff Strathern and Jim Hicks in the Cold Spring Harbor Yeast Group studying the mechanism of mating type switching. Klar served as Director of the Delbruck laboratory from 1985 to 1988.
He left Cold Spring Harbor to join the ABL-Basic Research Program as Head of the Developmental Genetics Section. In 1999, Klar joined the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research and is now a Principal Investigator in the Gene Regulation and Chromosome Biology Laboratory at NCI-CCR.
Jeffrey Strathern, a leading yeast geneticist, obtained his Ph.D. from the Molecular Biology Institute at the University of Oregon in 1977 and then moved to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he became a Senior Staff Member with the yeast genetics laboratory.
In 1984, he joined the ABL-Basic Research Program at the NCI-FCRDC. His research remains centered on aspects of gene regulation and genetic recombination as revealed by studies in yeast. In 1999, Strathern joined the Division of Basic Sciences, NCI. Strathern worked together with Amar Klar and Jim Hicks in the Cold Spring Harbor Yeast group from 1977 to 1984 where they made outstanding discoveries about the mechanism of mating type switching in yeast.