Recorded: 20 Feb 2001
I used to think this was strange, but it isn't. I think most scientists do, in fact, at least daydream about the results of their experiments, about having a vision about what might be going on, and then being able to get the tools together to investigate it and find out. I'm extremely fortunate in that that has by and large been true for my career. Inspired by classical genetics, classical epigenetics, I've been able to take experimental approaches that did actually work, that the tools became available and were really important to the success of the project. I've been responsible for building some of those tools. We're actually heavily involved in what's called functional genomics. This is using transposable elements to mutate the genome randomly, as a whole, and then using sequencing and other genomic technologies, [such as] micro array technology now, to index each of those mutants on the basis of the genome sequence. This is like doing all the mutation experiments that everybody ever did in plants at once and having it all on the computer at one time. That's a slight exaggeration, but if you've had a vision of what the question is that you're trying to address, and then you have a tool like that to address it, that really is a very remarkable thing. And its hard to get over, really.
Rob Martienssen is a plant molecular geneticist and professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1986 and did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley.
As a young scientist, he worked closely with Barbara McClintock. He currently studies plant epigenetics and development using functional genomics. He was awarded the Kumho International Science Award in Plant Biology and Biotechnology (2001).