Recorded: 31 May 2003
So, actually I got involved at the time of the 1986 meeting. The situation was that I had been a mathematician, had started out my career as an assistant professor in the math department at Columbia University. During that time I started feeling dissatisfied with working in pure math, and decided to make a career change. And one of the things that inspired me actually to move into biology was reading Jim Watson’s book, The Molecular Biology of the Gene, which really conveyed an incredible sense of the elegance of the cell and biological organisms from the molecular perspective.
So I wound up taking—leaving mathematics, taking a postdoctoral position to learn molecular biology. And in ’86 was applying for my first job in biology, and happened to see an advertisement in Science from Collaborative Research, a biotechnology company in Massachusetts that was interested in someone with mathematical skills to get involved in their project to make a genetic linkage map of the human genome using RFLPs, restriction fragment length polymorphisms.
So I applied for the job and got it. And came to the 1986 Cold Spring Harbor meeting actually driving up to Massachusetts from North Carolina where I had been doing my postdoc position, and I stopped off to go to the meeting. I had really no sense of what was going on in the genome field. I had learned some molecular biology. I didn’t really have a clear cut idea of what the big picture was, so it was an interesting experience meeting a lot of people who were at that time were starting to discuss the prospect of doing human genome sequencing. And I did attend the famous discussion at the ’86 meeting.
Philip Green is a professor of genome sciences, an adjunct professor of the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the University of Washington, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and was recently elected into the National Academy of Sciences.
Green designs software packages which aid in making genetic maps and identifying genes within the genome. He is concerned with constructing computational tools to understand cell functioning at a molecular level. Green has created the program Phred, which manages the data generated by the Human Genome Project and which is being used to help determine the most common variations in human DNA. Green’s laboratory is working to construct a gene-annotated genome sequence. His lab has modified the number of genes thought to be in the human genome—it is substantially fewer than had been previously believed.
Green spoke at the 68th Cold Spring Harbor Symposium focused on the Genome of Homo Sapiens.