Recorded: 06 Sep 2001
Well, here’s an example, there is a moment when he [Bruce Stillman] really has affected the way I think about my self as a scientist and also the way I think of myself as a teacher. When I started my first principal investigator position—it was at Fox Research Cancer Center and I was very interested in having more DNA replication taking place there. And so I decided that I would invite the two people I knew who were leaders in the field of DNA replication: Tom Kelley and Bruce Stillman. So I called Bruce and asked him if he’d be willing to come and he graciously said, yes! So I could remember at that—when he came to give a talk driving into Fox Chase and talking with him about “how do you read papers, what’s the most important thing in reading a paper.” And back in those days I thought it was the analysis, the data, how well the experiments were done and I remember Bruce saying, “You know the most important thing when you read a paper is at first, determine what the question is.” And I’ve taken that approach to reading papers and I teach my students that as well. Everything starts with: what is the problem that’s being addressed?—What is the question? And that’s something I got from Bruce Stillman. And outside of that—and so that was good because of Tom and Bruce we ended up starting to recruit people in DNA replication at Fox Chase. Again, I would say, over the years, I’ve—not many cases, I guess there must be two or three times when I’d call up Bruce and ask for advice about things. I guess the other thing I think about him in a special way because of he and Tom. I mean, the work that I did as a graduate student as I say—it was not DNA replication, but they found a place for me in this meeting. And I’m back here now, truth be known, I’m back here now because of what happened fourteen years ago, because I have a new observation, a new finding, its been hard to figure out where it would fit and I felt [that] the DNA Replication meeting is coming up, I bet Bruce and Tom will figure out a way to fit me into that meeting. And they did! I just submitted my abstract and waited to see what happened and they found a way to fit me in. And this is a really good group of scientists, this DNA replication crowd. I’ve always—I’m gonna say this—I’ve always wanted to be a part of this crowd and my work just really hasn’t been, hasn’t really fit into there. But you know, the people I trained with, they have stayed in the field so it’s really nice. It’s like a homecoming for me to be here, to see Bruce and to talk to Tom and him, to see my classmates from Hopkins here. So this is really a special moment for me.
James Sherley is a scientist on the forefront of adult stem-cell research. He earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.D./Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology (BCMB Program) from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
He was a Principal Investigator in the Division of Medical Science at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is currently a Principal Investigator at the Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health at MIT. His present research is in integrated studies in somatic stem cell kinetics.
Sherley was honored as a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Science in 1993, and in 2001 became a Pew Science and Society Institute Fellow.