Recorded: 22 Mar 2003
The great thing about Cold Spring Harbor and the thing that Jim did masterfully is to switch to new directions as things happened in biology. And Cold Spring Harbor is somewhat unique in being able to do that because only a tiny fraction of the people are tenured—sort of permanent staff. And so that means that with the turnover of people it’s much easier to shift directions. And so it enables the director to keep the lab at the forefront of new areas. And it’s been done in a number of, you know, of course it was a cancer lab in the beginning and then there was a big emphasis on cell biology and then structural and neurobiology. And I think the lab will continue to do the same, because it will constantly be new people, new faces and they’ll always be at the forefront. It’s just the way it’s organized.
Tom Maniatis, molecular biologist, is a leader in the field of recombinant DNA. At Vanderbilt University he completed his Ph.D. studying DNA wide-angle scattering. He became a postdoctoral fellow and professor at Harvard University and met Jim Watson just before he became director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
While Maniatis was beginning experimentation with cDNA cloning and gene regulation of higher cells, the controversy over recombinant DNA in Cambridge stunted his progression. Watson offered Maniatis a position at CSHL where he could work more efficiently to understand the methods of recombinant DNA. At CSHL, Maniatis completed full-length synthesis of double stranded DNA and actual cloning of cDNA.
He is currently a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University studying the mechanisms involved in the regulation of RNA transciption and pre-messenger RNA splicing. He studies transcription to understand how eukaryotic genes are activated by viral infection and extracellular signals.