Winship Herr on The First WSBS Applicants
  Winship Herr     Biography    
Recorded: 09 Jul 2004

I’ll never forget the first application was from some Taiwanese student in Buffalo, I think. Our deadline was February 1, which was later than we do now. Since then it’s been January 1 and now I think next year it’s going to be December 15th. But we wanted to give people time to apply.

I think it was [the number of applicants was] 136 the first year. So the numbers were not bad. And we got some good applicants.

One that stood out as an application was from Amy Caudy. She was from Washington University and she had a 4.0 grade point average. She had GREs that were in the 99 percentile, 96 percentile, 97 percentile. That means that almost everybody is below you. I knew that she had applied to all of the best schools; Stanford, San Francisco, I think Berkeley, San Diego, Duke, MIT, UCSF if I said that. She had applied to all these schools and she got accepted everywhere. She came for her interview here and she came—she was towards the end of the recruitment season. She came around March 20th or so for the interview. I’ll never forget—you know, something that’s really about growing up is that when you are a kid or a student, you always think that the professor or your parents are completely calm about everything, and that you’re the one who is nervous and you have to convince them and they’re going to judge you. Then when you grow up and you’re a parent or a professor or you’re trying to recruit students, all of a sudden you realize that you’re nervous about whether you’re going to succeed in recruiting somebody or succeed and having your children grow up okay. So, yeah, of course, I was nervous about interviewing this 4.0 undergraduate. Oh, sure. In fact, I’ll never forget. I cleaned up my office for Amy.

I had already interviewed many [prospective students], but I hadn’t cleaned up my desk for most of them. For her I cleaned up my desk. I’ll never forget because I came in early and I was going to interview her at 9 in the morning or so. Of course, she came early. She came at a quarter to 9 and I was still cleaning up. And she said, oh, I’m early, I’m early. I think I went down and got her a cup of coffee and said I’ll be ready in a few minutes and I cleaned up some more of my office.

I interviewed her. She [Amy Caudy] was very talkative. I didn’t have to say too much. She seemed to be very interested in the school. You know, we didn’t make offers until the very end. Well, I know we did very well.

Of course, I interviewed the other students. There was Elizabeth Thomas who had been an URP here. She had applied to Rockefeller. She had also worked at Rockefeller one summer. I remember with Elizabeth Thomas I was giving a tour and we went to the Knight House where the students live and it wasn’t ready yet. We walked along—because she didn’t have a car, she wasn’t going to have a car and we wanted to know if she could walk to the lab. But it was a bit tricky, it still is. I remember walking with her and it was absolutely beautiful. She was from Evergreen State College in Washington State where it is beautiful also, and I think she was very taken by the beauty of the place.

Well, I remember bringing them into this room [Reading Room at the CSHL Library]. I’d always show them this painting, where you have these two probably youngsters by the water, and I just said, you can come here and relax and look at this beautiful painting.

Winship Herr, director of the University of Lausanne School of Biology and member of EMBO. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of California in 1974 and Ph.D. for studies on recombinant retroviruses in leukemogenic mice with Walter Gilbert from Harvard University in 1982. He completed his postdoctoral research studies in Cambridge (England) with Frederick Sanger and with Joe Sambrook in Cold Spring Harbor. After that he joined the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory faculty in 1984. From 1994 till 2002 he was an assistant director of the Laboratory and founding dean of the Watson School of Biological Sciences from 1998 till 2004. He is a professor of the Center for Integrative Genomics at the University of Lausanne.

Winship Herr is a former National Science Foundation predoctoral fellow, Rita Allen Foundation Scholar, Helen Hay Whitney postdoctoral fellow, and Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Biological Sciences.

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