Recorded: 20 Feb 2001
The reason she called them controlling elements is that these elements actually control the expression of genes. And, she was the first to identify what is now considered to be a transacting mutation; a mutation that influences the expression of another gene unlinked in trans somewhere else in the genome. And it was right around that same time that [Francois] Jacob and [Jacques] Monod were working on similar sorts of phenomena in bacteria. And, of course, when she was here, the bacterial group led by Milislav Demerec, which included people like Evelyn Witkin, who was a great friend of hers, were working very much on this sort of area and so she saw the parallels right away. She was very excited by those issues at the time and actually transposition is almost a secondary thing that she didn't consider to be so important.
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).