Nancy Hopkins on CSHL
  Nancy Hopkins     Biography    
Recorded: 09 Apr 2001

Well, Cold Spring Harbor was, again, a place that became an essential part of the education of a very large number of people of my generation. Of course it probably had been, before that, already a meeting place. It was a historic meeting place of molecular biologists. Much of molecular biology was born, in a way, of these Cold Spring Harbor Symposia and it was enormously important. The books that came out—the volume—the Cold Spring Harbor Symposium on Quantitative Biology volume—were critical books at that time for bringing together a field just as it was about to emerge. They would have a meeting on it and that would produce a book, and that was something that was changing the field as it went.

So that already happened. And then Jim took students from Harvard to Cold Spring Harbor for the summer. He took a number of us down there. Well, that was just an amazing experience because everybody comes to Cold Spring Harbor in the summer. So you would be there and all these great scientists would be coming through and you could meet them. And there you had the ability to eat, breathe, talk science, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And this is not something that’s easy to do in the real world. OK? Most of your friends that you have when you are young are not in science and you had to talk about other things, which is fine. But if you really love science when you’re young, you are so obsessed, you really want to live it, breathe it—and there you could do that. So it was just fantastic to be there. And of course you meet with these amazing people like John Cairns and Barbara McClintock. And we used to all cook dinner—the young people would cook dinner together. So it was such an international group of people, so one week we would have Greek, and then we’d have French and then we’d have Italian, and so forth. So we had this—it was just a wonderful time at Cold Spring Harbor! Just wonderful.

Nancy Hopkins is a developmental biologist and the Amgen, Inc. Professor of Biology at MIT. Working under Jim Watson and Mark Ptashne, Hopkins earned her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1971. As a postdoctoral fellow she moved to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where she continued working under Watson researching DNA tumor viruses. In 1973 she joined the MIT faculty as an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer Research, where she researched the mechanisms of replication and leukemogenesis by RNA tumor viruses for 17 years.

Hopkins has also led an ongoing effort to end discrimination against women in science. In 1995 she was appointed Chair of the first Committee on Women Faculty in the School of Science at MIT, and in 2000 she was appointed Co-Chair of the first Council on Faculty Diversity at MIT. Hopkins co-authored the fourth edition of Molecular Biology of the Gene. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.