Recorded: 15 Jan 2003
Well, my memory of Cold Spring Harbor is that it was an extraordinarily intense place. I had thought that I worked hard before I got to Cold Spring Harbor. I certainly changed my view of what working hard is. And this was a commitment that was total. My wife says that I only went home on two occasions in the four years that I was there and she got pregnant on both of them. She’s exaggerates a little bit but that’s about the size of it.
We actually lived in the Firehouse which was just down the road from the laboratory I worked in. And in those days we ran DNA in vertical agarose gels. And, to give you an example of how intense it was and how committed we were, I used to run my agarose gel on the window sill of the laboratory. And I could see the window from my apartment. So I could actually see where the dye was running on my gel where it whilst I sat having dinner. And I could gauge how long I’d got before I had to go back to the lab by where the blue dye was on the gel. So it’s a total commitment.
I think in hindsight you almost felt guilty at not being there when the lab was full of other people. And so you tended to be there even if you didn’t need to be in conducting your particular experiment. You needed to be there in order to not miss a conversation, to miss one of those wonderful moments when we gathered round the board there and started throwing ideas around and responding to other people’s ideas. So it was a full on commitment. And my recollection of it is that. That it’s like no other place that I had worked at that time when I was very young and junior, but it was so intense that in looking back on it it’s actually hard to see how I survived at least in trying to keep a family going as well as keeping my professional life going.
Ashley Dunn is currently a Senior Consulting Scientist and member of the Scientific Advisory Board at the Cryptome Pharmaceuticals Ltd., an Australian biotech company. He also serves on Australia’s Gene Technology Advisory Committee. He is the former Head of Molecular Biology in the Melbourne Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.
He came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1976 to work with Joe Sambrook as a postdoctoral fellow and eventually became a junior faculty member.
His research has been concentrated on mammalian growth factors and the regulators responsible for the production of white blood cells in mice and men. He co-invented a mammalian blood cell regulator (GM-CSF), and his lab was the one of the first to establish gene targeting in the development of human diseases such as cancer.