Raymond Gesteland on Rich Roberts at CSHL
  Raymond Gesteland     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Jun 2001

What could I say about Rich Roberts? He was a very driven character, but yet had a real sense of humor and joy about doing experiments; you’d hear his cackling laugh two labs away. But he was really driven by understanding how something worked. Especially if he thought somebody else was close to it, and he was in competition: that really drove him on. I think he loved that part of the Lab. He was very actively involved with the stuff going on at the lab. He really knew what everybody was doing, and paid attention and argued with them and talked with them. So he was a very big contributor to the liveliness and intellectual life of the Lab.

One of the things going on at that time, of course, there was a lot of discovery for work on restriction enzymes. He really did understand the value of the diversity of restriction enzymes, most people were delighted to find one or two and take advantage of them and use them. But Rich really saw the much bigger picture that you need a whole collection. So he really had some vision of these things and his training really made him well suited for that detailed biochemical, that intensity that was necessary to find those enzymes and purify them and make them work and make them available. So in addition to what he got the Nobel Prize for, I think he deserves a lot of credit for those early days of recombinant DNA technology because of his vision and commitment to finding the reagents to make it work.

Raymond Gesteland, biologist, has made progress in describing essential mechanisms for controlled gene expression. His research on recoding provides insight into replication of RNA viruses such as HIV and the genetic code. Gesteland also concentrates on ribosome function and response to mRNA signals.

He received a master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. After working at Alfred Tissières Laboratory in Geneva, in 1967, Gesteland arrived at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to work under Jim Watson as Assistant Director for Research.

Gesteland is currently Vice President for Research, Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics, and Chairman of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah.