Ulf Pettersson on Rich Roberts
  Ulf Pettersson     Biography    
Recorded: 20 Aug 2003

He came, I believe, in 1972 when I had been here for a while. And we got to know each other and became very good friends because we both lived in the firehouse. The first year here in Cold Spring Harbor I was very fortunate. My family, which was my wife and two kids, we were living in a wonderful house off of Ridge Road belonging to Tom August (??). But we could only keep that for one year. So we moved to the firehouse and at the same time as we moved in, Rich and his wife came. We are both bridge players, so we spent a lot of time together when we had the time playing bridge. So I think we had a lot of influence on each other. I mean Rich came here to do work on RNA and RNA mapping. I think to some extent I influenced Rich in that at the time I was working on restriction enzymes, trying to cleave adenovirus DNA. I told Rich about these wonderful tools. And I think he immediately caught on this, and I think that lead to his interest and realization that this would be very instrumental in the future science and that one would benefit tremendously from having a collection of those. When we started, there were only one or two available. And other thing that we did together, of course, was to work on adenovirus. The reason why I was asked to come to Cold Spring Harbor, I think, was more than anything else that I had a long experience from adenovirus research. I did my thesis on the adenovirus proteins and knew how to grow the virus when I came here. And I think that when people saw that my first preparations of virus, the fat band of viruses and the thrill of the possibilities that opened, I think that people were impressed, and switched in many instances from working on SV40 to working on adenoviruses. Rich caught an interest in adeno research, I think, partly from our own discussion and interactions outside of the lab. I mean, Rich was working in Demerec and I was in James Lab. We were really not lab mates. But I think that was the wonderful way that Cold Spring Harbor worked those days. You met someone outside of the lab and you had a discussion and then you started collaborations and wonderful things happened.

Ulf Pettersson, geneticist and virologist, is the vice-president of the University of Upssala in Sweden, a professor of medical genetics, and a leader of a group on genetic disease in the Department of Genetics and Pathology. His scientific research is focused on finding genes linked with diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

After finishing his medical degree in Sweden and his thesis on adenovirus proteins, he came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He worked as a postdoc alongside Joe Sambrook and Rich Roberts. He researched transcription and the methods by which to grow and extract adenovirus DNA and studied how to use restriction enzymes to map viral chromosomes. His work led to the understanding of how the chromosome is organized and how transcription takes place. In the 80’s he slowly altered his concentration from virology to genetics.

After leaving Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1973 he became a professor of microbiology at the University of Uppsala and then chairman of the Department of Medical Genetics. He was a member of the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) (1992-1998), and is currently a member of both the Finnish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Academy of Sciences.