Recorded: 01 Mar 2003
I came here as a postdoctoral fellow. So that was—after I graduated from college I went first to Yale and then into NYU. I went from being a field biologist as an undergraduate to a molecular biologist. And then I had to choose a place to do a postdoctoral training and I had two choices: one was to work with Julie [Julius] Marmur in the Einstein College of Medicine and the other choice was to come out here to work with Al Hershey. And I talked to Julie Marmur about it and he said that I would be really foolish not to go to Al Hershey because he couldn’t compare in any way. And so I came here as a postdoctoral fellow in 1964. I was just—I was married but had no children and it was a great experience.
When I came, John Cairns was director, and it was a very place different place than it is now. I guess the best way I could explain it would be that it was a very needy place and I had the feeling that we were all living in a kind of gentile poverty. Almost like monks were in a monastery. Dedicated to our science totally, but not living a fabulous life. It was a very Spartan life that we were living.
I was here for five years from 1964 to 1969. And I loved Cold Spring Harbor. And I had two children while I was here and it was a wonderful place to be because it was very convenient for me. And I actually had hoped to stay on with some independent support from the Carnegie Institution. But that didn’t work out because towards the end of my stay Al Hershey announced that he was going to retire. And so it became obvious that Carnegie was going to draw back and things were really changing at that time.
Jim Watson came on board and he wasn’t really interested in the kinds of things I was doing at the time. He was interested in cancer viruses. And so it was time for me to go and I was really excited about my next opportunity so it was okay.
I went to a newly formed institution. It was called the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology. And it was just forming up so it was really exciting to be part of a new operation. And it was formulated very much like the Carnegie Institution. It was a research institution, a collection of scholars doing just research and it was exciting to be a part of that as well
Anna Marie Skalka, microbiologist, molecular biologist and geneticist is Senior Vice President for Basic Science and director of the Institute for Cancer Research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. She completed her Ph.D. at New York University Medical School in 1964 and came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to continue her graduate work on bacteriophage under Al Hershey. In 1969 she left for the Roche Institute for Molecular Biology and eventually she turned her attention to retroviruses.
At Fox Chase Medical Center, Skalka studies molecular aspects of retroviral replication and hopes to uncover mechanisms of retroviral DNA integration. She has become interested in virally coded integrase, which catalyzes the integration of retroviral DNA into the host cell’s genome. Considering that stable integration of viral DNA into the host cell genome is essential for replication of retroviruses, her studies are important in developing antiviral drugs to treat AIDS.