Recorded: 01 May 2000
Jeff: I went there in the fall on 1977, arrived in November just as they were beginning to paint the apartment that my wife and I were supposed to move into. I think I want to start the story partly in the middle, because I have to recognize that we are going to skip over a bunch of stories that lead to Ira and to Jim Hicks. But because I am seated next to Amar, the part of the story I want to start with was, sort of a really precious occasion that happened at the yeast meeting in ’77.
Amar: ’77, because that’s when I met you first.
Jeff: Because it was at that time that we had a real conceptualization of mating type switching in yeast and it involved moving DNA around in a programmed fashion. Even the language hadn’t evolved yet to the point where you could discuss this in a fashion that was comfortable for most other people. There were very few other examples of program DNA rearrangements. There were some in bacteria and there were some in the immune system, but it wasn’t the language that people were terribly still comfortable with at that time. Amar and I had got together at the yeast meeting in ’77.
Jeff: It was the first time we met.
Amar: This was the first time we were introduced, yes.
Jeff: And this was at a time when it was difficult simply to discuss the concept of the cassette model with people. And Amar was this wonderful exception. He had a complete understanding of the concept. [He] came to the meeting with this enormous level of energy, and we could finish each other’s sentences as we described the conceptualization of it—what the genetic basis of it was at that time. Talking to him was a narcotic, and in marked contrast to the [dis]ability to be able to have the same kind of conversation with other people. And so by that time, Jim Hicks and I had both arranged to come to Cold Spring Harbor. It was at that point—as an outgrowth of that meeting – we simply said to Jim Watson that we couldn’t do this yeast group without Amar. He had to be part of that.
Amar: I was at Berkeley at that time.
Jeff: It was just an argument that Jim accepted, he could see it. There are a couple of occasions with Jim Watson where his- he could perceive the synergy between the members of the yeast group in a fashion that led to him being very supportive of us. And this was one of them. This was really one of the key ones where he could see the synergy between Jim Hicks and Amar and myself. He just got right on board the concept of building this group of people to provide further genetic proof and further physical proof of this concept.
Amar Klar and Jeff Strathern worked together in the Cold Spring Harbor Yeast group from 1977 till 1984 where they made outstanding discoveries about the mechanism of mating type switching in yeast.
Amar Klar, is a leading yeast geneticist, concerned with the molecular biology of gene silencing and mating-type switching. Klar came from India to the University of Wisconsin in 1975 to receive his Ph.D. in bacteriology. From 1977 to 1984, he worked with Jeff Strathern and Jim Hicks in the Cold Spring Harbor Yeast Group studying the mechanism of mating type switching. Klar served as Director of the Delbruck laboratory from 1985 to 1988.
He left Cold Spring Harbor to join the ABL-Basic Research Program as Head of the Developmental Genetics Section. In 1999, Klar joined the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research and is now a Principal Investigator in the Gene Regulation and Chromosome Biology Laboratory at NCI-CCR.
Jeffrey Strathern, a leading yeast geneticist, obtained his Ph.D. from the Molecular Biology Institute at the University of Oregon in 1977 and then moved to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he became a Senior Staff Member with the yeast genetics laboratory.
In 1984, he joined the ABL-Basic Research Program at the NCI-FCRDC. His research remains centered on aspects of gene regulation and genetic recombination as revealed by studies in yeast. In 1999, Strathern joined the Division of Basic Sciences, NCI. Strathern worked together with Amar Klar and Jim Hicks in the Cold Spring Harbor Yeast group from 1977 to 1984 where they made outstanding discoveries about the mechanism of mating type switching in yeast.