Ulf Pettersson on Future of CSHL
  Ulf Pettersson     Biography    
Recorded: 20 Aug 2003

I really would hope that it will survive. I think the rate by which is has been expanding and being improved, it more or less has to level off. I suppose for practical reasons. Being big is not the most important thing. I mean I think that the lab probably has reached a science which I would guess would be reasonable. I mean at some point you lose control of the place. I think it’s amazing that it can be as big as it is and be held together. But the question is if it will be able to maintain it’s sort of extremely high status. I think everything points to this. But again, if you start reflecting on what makes this place so good—I was thinking about this the other day. I came up with a comparison. We have in Upsala, one, if not the world’s best men choir—it’s the university choir. This has maintained its standard for at least fifty years, and there are none of the same singers in the choir and still it maintains its high quality. And I think that you have the same problem here and in science. I mean how can you ascertain that the lab will maintain its standard and that’s a very difficult question. I mean partly because you can’t really say what is it, what component would be instrumental to lose here. I mean in many instances, very prominent people have left Cold Spring Harbor. And you have said that this could a big—for instance, when Phil and Rich left Cold Spring Harbor and there was a lot of potential that was gone. But still another lab goes into new areas. I mean the question, I suppose is, or the problem would be the divisions; to know what is important tomorrow and I think that people like Jim and Joe and Bruce have been outstanding in knowing that. So I think the odds are pretty good. They are not a hundred percent. I would be very sad if something happened to this place.

Ulf Pettersson, geneticist and virologist, is the vice-president of the University of Upssala in Sweden, a professor of medical genetics, and a leader of a group on genetic disease in the Department of Genetics and Pathology. His scientific research is focused on finding genes linked with diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

After finishing his medical degree in Sweden and his thesis on adenovirus proteins, he came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He worked as a postdoc alongside Joe Sambrook and Rich Roberts. He researched transcription and the methods by which to grow and extract adenovirus DNA and studied how to use restriction enzymes to map viral chromosomes. His work led to the understanding of how the chromosome is organized and how transcription takes place. In the 80’s he slowly altered his concentration from virology to genetics.

After leaving Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1973 he became a professor of microbiology at the University of Uppsala and then chairman of the Department of Medical Genetics. He was a member of the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) (1992-1998), and is currently a member of both the Finnish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Academy of Sciences.