Recorded: 08 Aug 2001
That was funny because after the ’77 meeting, Ray said, “Boy, [Amar Klar] looks good!” And I said, “Yeah, boy he really is!” And he said, “Why don’t you try and get him a job as well?” I hadn’t been here yet so I didn’t know how to do that. So Ray actually did it in the background, but Jim then got in touch with me. There was a funny story there too. Jim had mentioned it to Ahmad Bukhari and Ahmad recognized Amar’s name as being a Sikh name and he said, “Oh Sikhs they’re crazy. They stay out in the middle of the day and they don’t cut their hair and they don’t shave their beards!” And I don’t know how much tongue in cheek he was being but Jim actually called me and said, “Well, you have to come down if you want him to come here, you have to come down and present it to a faculty meeting.” I hadn’t even been here yet. I was still a post doc when I went to my first faculty meeting to describe what Amar had done and in the middle of the meeting Bukhari said, “Does he wear a turban?”
I said, “No, he doesn’t wear a turban!”
And he made a couple of other comments about cutting his hair and so forth. And I said, “No, it doesn’t look like he’s that way.” And there [are] a lot of things in faculty meetings [that] you never knew what was really serious and what was in jest. Anyway, they approved getting [Amark Klar.] Amar had already done a post doc so he had to have a real job. We were all so close in age. There was chronological development from an academic point of view. It wasn’t a matter of being somebody that I could sponsor as a postdoc and nobody wanted to do that. That wasn’t what we had in mind. It was completely socialistic. We were just working together. And there wasn’t supposed to be any hierarchical group. However, Jim couldn’t let that go. He had to come down and make a point of telling me that I was responsible for the whole thing!
There was no intellectual hierarchy. It was only pro forma that there was any indication that I was responsible for the group. I was just a couple of years ahead of anybody else.
James Hicks is a pioneer in the field of yeast genetics. He earned his Ph.D. degree in molecular biology and genetics from the University of Oregon, working with Ira Herskowitz.
Hicks researched with Jeff Strathern and Amar Klar 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.
Hicks is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of ViroGenomics, a Portland biotech company that is searching for new treatments for chronic and acute viral disease.