Recorded: 09 Apr 2001
I had just been at the Genome meeting at Harvard for two days, and I was talking to some friends I had known back in the days when I was a student at Harvard. And we were talking exactly about how science has changed. One thing is that in those days, a big lab was seven people and ten was huge, but today I have 25 people in my lab and there are labs that have 100 people. So we worry about whether young people have that same sense of excitement we had when we are young, that we could go out and make our own lab and become head of a lab, and be the same as everybody else. We could compete with everybody else. We could do it. Because as a young person, you’re not going to have a lab of 25 people and some of the experiments we want to do today require 25 people. I don’t have one because I like to have a big lab. I have one because I want to do this experiment and this experiment requires 25 people. So we worry that they won’t have the same freedom and equality that we had as young people, to go into science and have the best ideas do the best experiments because they won’t be able to get access to the [resources]. So should we be re-examining how we organize science to give them the same sense of opportunity we had that made it such an exciting thing to be equals with these Nobel Prize winners, even as we were starting out our careers?
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.