Winship Herr on The WSBS, Week-Long Intensives at Banbury Center
  Winship Herr     Biography    
Recorded: 09 Jul 2004

So I mentioned about taking advantage of what Cold Spring Harbor has to offer and how we used the DNA Learning Center for example to give teaching opportunities to students. While the Banbury Conference Center is one of the great assets at Cold Spring Harbor Lab, an absolutely beautiful site. The conference room at Banbury is magnificent. It has a blackboard that goes from one end of the room to the other. And it’s a very intimate setting.

The Robertson House, you know, for meals and such is unsurpassable. So, what we do is we designed actually following a bit of a European tradition, a block course. Basically a one-week long intensive course where students go from Sunday to Saturday. We get a faculty member from outside of Cold Spring Harbor to teach the course. The students have to take it every year, first, second, third and fourth years. And often they don’t like to have to take it. In fact, when they are working in the lab and all of a sudden this course comes along and they have to spend a week, they grumble. But in fact at the end of the course they say, wow, I learned a lot. It’s been one of the most successful aspects of the graduate program.

Let me say another reason for having these courses, although we may have had a research community centered in plant genetics, and bioinformatics and cancer and neurobiology here at Cold Spring Harbor, there are many areas of the biological sciences that are not represented here. So one of the things that we realized was that we needed to give the breadth that we wanted to give to the students, but we really couldn’t give it first hand from Cold Spring.

Maybe someone could say, okay, I’m going to teach a course in immunology even though I’m not an immunologist. I’ll just, you know, learn it. But that wouldn’t really be the way we would want to teach a course cause we want the faculty to know it intimately. So we used the fact that we have the Banbury Conference Center to recruit scientists from around the country to come and spend a week and lecture the students.

The first [scientist] was, for example, was _____ who is the director of the immunology program at Harvard. Who actually I was a graduate student with at Harvard. And he’s Dutch and he loves teaching, He is particularly intrigued by the concept of how to teach the subject of immunology in a very short framework, in one week. So he was very interested in, in fact, using us as an experiment. In fact, I think he’s found it very successful. He’s come back twice, taught it three times now.

In fact students have taken advantage of these courses, of meeting faculty and making decisions about postdocs with these faculty who have taught the course. So I think the faculty is enjoying that in fact they are recruiting good people for their labs as postdocs when they have come to teach the course.

I think what I love about what happened with the Watson School and we’ve only started to scratch the surface is that we were able to take advantage of Cold Spring Harbor to really give a cohesive, didactic instruction to students covering various aspects such as continuing education, but also breadth in education using the Banbury conference center or learning how to communicate and teaching through the DNA Learning Center.

One of the things also in the development of the curriculum was indeed the faculty. I mean the faculty—I’ll get to that at a later point, but right now I was very interested in the Watson school bringing people together.

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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