Robert Waterston on The Future of Genomics
  Robert Waterston     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Jun 2003

Well, I want to understand what all this stuff is for. I mean we got started. This is all meant just to be a tool. And I’ve been significantly detoured on this exploration. So I have some ideas about how to get more precise information about expression in the worm. And to use that, hopefully, to put limits on at least models on how it all happened. I’d like to see if I can make some contribution to using human variation to understand what makes us what we are, but I don’t know how I’m going to do that.

I don’t know [what will happen in] twenty years—I can’t—I can barely see till tomorrow. But I was optimistic that it could be done. I think that we wouldn’t have started the worm—and you know, we put our heads on the line. We said we’d have the worm done in ten years. And nobody had a clue as to how to do it really except that, you know, we knew we could get some basis and we just put one foot in front of the other. I wouldn’t have started on that journey if I weren’t optimistic. And then—I mean once we got started on the worm I was convinced that the human could be done. It was a matter of resources.

Robert Waterston received his bachelor's degree in engineering from Princeton University (1965) and both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago (1972). After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, he joined the Washington University faculty in 1976 where he is the James S. McDonnel Professor of Genetics, head of the Department of Genetics, and director of the School of Medicine’s Genome Sequencing Center, which he founded in 1993. In early 2003 Dr Waterston took on the role of Chair of the department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was a recipient of the International Gairdner Award, the Genetics Society of America’s Beadle Award, the Dan David Prize, and the Alfred P. Sloan Award from the GM Cancer Research Foundation.

Waterston attended the worm meetings at Cold Spring Harbor Lab and in 1989 Watson supported Waterston’s proposal to use the worm as a model organism in the Human Genome Project.