Tim Tully on Science and Politics: NIMH Training Program
  Tim Tully     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Aug 2003

I was supported as an undergraduate and in graduate school for a NIMH funded training program, which was entitled, “The Study of Institutional and Scientific Racism.” Now this is incredible, actually.

This was organized and run by Jerry Hirsch, the behavior geneticist. He did so, I think, out of extreme vision and intelligence. He realized that in the realm of the genetic basis of behavior, even historically, scientific information was being misused tremendously. It was the misuse of the scientific basis of behavior that gave rise to eugenics and ultimately to that pseudoscience unique to the Nazis during World War II.

Hirsch was acutely aware of this and aware of the fact that we as scientists studying genes involved with behavior had better become educated to how these issues can be used and misused in society to advance social and political goals. So this training grant that I participated on for seven years, included criminal psychologists, an educational psycholinguist, an anthropologist, a zoologist, evolutionary biologists, biologists and neurobiologists. Every type of scientist you could imagine at a liberal arts university, participated in this program. We would have thematic courses each semester where each of would have to get up and give a two hour presentation on some aspect of the theme. We studied everything from the genetic basic of I.Q., which was my specialty, to socialism à la Marx. We studied the historical roots of American fascism, but that was administered by two Marxists professors at the University of Illinois.

This, for me and for a scientist was incredibly eye opening and educational and it really did teach me in a very thorough and broad fashion, how my work can influence social issues and politics. How I could learn the appropriate ways to communicate my work and advance my argument for or against the use of the ideas in society. It was extremely educational.

Tim Tully is a molecular geneticist, interested in finding the genetic and biological basis of memory in order to better identify pharmacological and behavioral treatments for memory loss. In 1981, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Tully joined the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory staff in 1991 to work on discovering genes involved with memory. He became the St. Giles Foundation Professor of Neuroscience and led the Drosophila learning and memory program. In 1998 he founded Helicon Therapeutics, Inc., a development-stage biotechnology firm that works on new therapies for memory loss and other cognition disorders. In June, 2007, Tully left Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to become Helicon's Acting Chief Scientific Officer, and assume a key role in the Michigan-based Dart Foundation as it expands its interest in funding neuroscience research.

His work on the transcriptional factor CREB gave way to the first experimental demonstration of enhanced memory formation in genetically engineered animals. Tully works to identify genes involved with long-term memory formation. Tully has determined that by the regulation of gene expression, new, long-term memories can be formed due to the growth of new synapses.