Maynard Olson on Changes in the HGP
  Maynard Olson     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Jun 2003

Well that’s a really great question. One of my roles at this meeting is I’m supposed to be the summarizer tomorrow night this meeting and it’s really those have got to be my themes. And I have another twenty-four hours to think about them. You know, what have we learned at this meeting about how this field has taken hold and how is it changed?

You know the simplest change is cultural; that to identify, and I think most people would agree with this. Genome research started as an insurgency. And it’s now the orthodoxy. So that’s a huge change. And I don’t particularly like it myself. I’m an insurgent. I like to stir things up and try things that are new and challenge the orthodoxy. So one of my advice to the young scientists here at this meeting is don’t buy too heavily into this orthodoxy. We have very powerful tools. We have a new way of really thinking about biology and biological research but I don’t think we’ve really entirely figured out what to do with it yet. And that’s going up to some of these young people. But try some new things.

Maynard V. Olson received his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from California Institute of Technology and Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Stanford University (1970). After five years on the chemistry faculty at Dartmouth College, he shifted his research efforts to molecular genetics at Washington University in St Louis and the University of Washington in Seattle. He now serves as Director of the University of Washington Human Genome Center, Professor of Genetics and Medicine, and Adjunct Professor of Computer Science & Engineering.

A pioneer in genomic research, Dr. Olson launched the ultimately successful effort to construct a detailed physical map of the yeast genome in 1979. He also led efforts to develop yeast artificial chromosomes (YACs) that allowed for the study of large portions of the human genome and proved invaluable in the tracking of disease-related genes, and he introduced STS-content mapping which led to the first physical maps of whole human chromosomes.

Dr. Olson is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has been awarded the Genetics Society of America Medal, the City of Medicine Award, and the Gairdner Foundation International Award for his scientific contributions to the Human Genome Project.

Influenced by Watson’s book, Molecular Biology of the Gene, Olsen started working with the genome in the 1970’s. He met Jim Watson when they both served on Bruce Albert’s Committee of the National Research Council. Olsen also helped to organize several genome meetings at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory during the 1980s.