Robert Waterston on The HGP: International Collaboration
  Robert Waterston     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Jun 2003

Well, I’m basically an internationalist by experience. You know, I first spent a summer abroad at the age of 16. And I think it’s—I’m fascinated by all the differences and enjoy seeing that. And you know nations are artifice, we’re all people. We have different ancestors and so forth but basically we’re all people and as such we share basically the same kind of phenotype. And so, you know, you should work with—and science is wonderful at this. You know, you work on problems with whoever you share ideas with and the collaboration with John even though we were four thousand miles apart couldn’t have been closer. And I think it actually benefited by having our different viewpoints and stuff.

On a deeper level I think that it was very important to have the rest of the world involved in that this was not a U.S.-only project. It was U.S.-centric enough to make the rest of the world uncomfortable. Because this is powerful information. If the U.S. were to be seen as the sole repository and if it had been a U.S. company as the sole repository I think it would have engendered very substantial problems.

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.