Recorded: 17 Jan 2003
Joe [Sambrook] was very helpful, very supportive when I arrived. And as I said he threw some ideas at me to get started on a project because it was a completely new field for me. And he I remember that we used to have weekly lab meetings where everybody used to report their data. And of course science doesn’t move that fast and you don’t generate a whole lot of new data in a week particularly when you’re doing cell culture work, which is very slow. So I was certainly busily trying to generate new data so that I’d have something to say every week and I think this was a way that Joe generated competition and you know a need to succeed and deliver results and so on. And they were—but they were very interesting these meetings and there were a lot of different aspects of SV40 going on in the lab at the time and some adenovirus work. So in many ways it was how you got to know the people in the lab a little bit as well was talking at these meetings and how they figured whether you had anything to offer or not was whether you could present interesting data./p
So Joe used those meetings very much as his way of monitoring what was going on in the lab. And getting ideas, stimulating ideas and so on. We also had more casual interactions although not a huge amount. I think that once a project started it was more generating unusual results they tended to be discussed in the meetings more than separately.
But my lab bench was actually close to the bench that Joe had, and there was a radio just above the—actually my lab bench and Joe was on the bench nearby. And so there was always a bit of a war as to what would be on the radio because Joe and I must say me also, preferred classical music or something a little gentler whereas there were others in the lab who preferred something nosier. So Joe would be out, someone would change the station on the radio and then Joe would storm in and say, “Who put this shit on?” and we’d change the radio back to its original station. So and of course while Joe was there nobody interfered but—so there were some interactions and of course it’s true because he was nearby we had perhaps more interactions than people in other labs did.
Merilyn Sleigh is a pharmacologist, molecular biologist and dean in the Department of Life Sciences at the University of New South Wales. After completing her Ph.D. at the University of Sydney in pharmacology and another PhD in molecular biology at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), she came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to work under Joe Sambrook as a postdoctoral fellow researching the protein production of SV40. She returned to CSIRO, establishing one of the first laboratories in Australia using genetic engineering approaches to study influenza virus structure, evolution and gene regulation. She has become involved in developing the biotechnological industry in Australia. Sleigh is founding director of the Australian Biotechnology Association and is currently Chief Executive of EvoGenix, a start-up biotechnology company located in Australia.