Ulf Pettersson on CSHL Symposia
  Ulf Pettersson     Biography    
Recorded: 20 Aug 2003

I mean the symposium that I just attended was a very special one because it brought together, you know, people who have been working here for various time periods and it was wonderful to meet people and a lot of wonderful science was presented. I really have a feeling for what the lab has meant, and how much of the science that has produced the last thirty years that have led really in biology and by medicine, how much has come from here. I think when it comes to Cold Spring Harbor as a meeting place it is pretty unique; in the first place because it’s history. The Cold Spring Harbor Symposia is something very special. That reputation has spilled over very much so that going to Cold Spring Harbor for a course or a meeting is something fantastic. Then I believe that the way that meetings are run here, the physical setting. Blackford Hall even in the old days when I was here in the early ‘70s, I mean, Cold Spring Harbor was a pretty run down place, and everything was not very comfortable. To live in the cabins in those days was not very comfortable experience. But that was overshadowed by the sort of the atmosphere here. And I think that Jim probably contributed a lot. The typical thing for Jim is that he never comes in. I mean he sits the whole session he would come in, listen for a while and go out. Sometimes I think that annoyed people by this behavior. But at the same time, I think that gave a special atmosphere here that this great guy would be coming in and out, and sometimes ask questions. And always there’s been this atmosphere of intellectual conversations here. I’m not sure how that you can implement this. But this place somehow stimulate in some odd way, people to interact. I mean all the photos you can see people are talking and talking and discussing. And all the pictures, you can see the way that science has been displayed here in the lab, I think has been very important for how scientists interact. But I mean the arrangements and organizations of the meetings with banquets and barbeques. The fact that you have the beach. The beauty of the place, I think, makes it—If I tell someone I’m going to Cold Spring Harbor and for a meeting everyone would be very envious and say or think, why couldn’t I go also? So, it’s a combination of things. And, of course, I haven’t been to a hell of a lot of places. I shouldn’t say that it’s the best, but it must be hard to find or make something which would be better than this. And now, I mean, the standard here is so extremely high with all the new buildings and the new auditorium and everything.

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.