Merilyn Sleigh on CSHL Memories
  Merilyn Sleigh     Biography    
Recorded: 17 Jan 2003

I had just finished my Ph.D. in Sydney in Australia. And was thinking about possibly an overseas postdoc. So one of my—the people that I had worked with at the institute had done a postdoc with Joe Sambrook at ANU [The Australian National University] in Australia. And [he] said, “Oh, that [CSHL] would be an interesting lab to go to.” So he wrote to Joe and said, “We have a person here who may be interesting.” And Joe wrote back and said, “Well, we can probably find a place.” I think he liked Australians and liked to have them in his lab and I think that made a difference. Then it turned out that I had my own money eventually as well which of course made things a lot easier for at least the first few months.

So I left Australia. It was the first time I’d ever been outside Australia. I did something very brave which was to go to Mexico on the way. So, of course, I was very naïve. I had no idea of any difficulties of traveling anywhere but I thought, “Well, I’ll go to Mexico.” And I did and I had a fantastic time in Mexico and then eventually arrived in New York and went out along Long Island to Cold Spring Harbor. I can’t actually remember the moment of my arrival but I know that Joe was there and he was very welcoming. I had housing already organized. It was in Carnegie, which of course isn’t used for housing anymore, but it was an absolutely wonderful building. Not probably restored at that stage, I think that came later. I had a room right up in the top story of Carnegie.

It was called then it was used for postdoc housing. So I was there. I got settled in and then Joe took me off to his house which was down the road. I think he was in the Yellow House, then. I had a lovely dinner with his family and met some of the other people in the lab. I remember that Denise Galloway was there. And Denise and I became great friends and we’re still great friends after all these years. So that was a great introduction to New York and the U.S. and Cold Spring Harbor

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.