Robert Martiennsen on Barbara McClintock as a Mentor to Other Scientists
  Robert Martiennsen     Biography    
Recorded: 20 Feb 2001

She was a great listener—she was always a really good listener—and, in fact, she didn't like to influence people's thinking too much, so she would listen to what you had to say and then try to guide you—maybe using some of her experiments as examples—but try to guide you rather than try to tell you what you should be thinking. So in that sense, she was a really wonderful teacher. She also actually taught a few practical things. I probably didn't benefit from that as much as others but she did show how to do some microscopy techniques, looking at the maize chromosomes. These are classical techniques, and actually they're being lost now because very few people know how to do this. And she showed me how to take sporocytes out of a corn plant, which is quite fun, in the greenhouse here at Cold Spring Harbor. That was an entertaining experience and she showed me how to look at these chromosomes and interpret them. But really most of my memories are of her are more discussing scientific principles and some of my own experiments. And that was really an important thing to be able to do.

Rob Martienssen is a plant molecular geneticist and professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1986 and did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley.

As a young scientist, he worked closely with Barbara McClintock. He currently studies plant epigenetics and development using functional genomics. He was awarded the Kumho International Science Award in Plant Biology and Biotechnology (2001).