Recorded: 01 Jun 2003
Well, my connection with the worm traces back to a fateful summer in Woods Hole, the other ocean lab. So I was a M.D./Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago and went to Woods Hole to take the physiology course because I was frustrated with medical school And I was only allowed to sign up for the first six weeks. And Sydney [Brenner] wasn’t even there the first six weeks of the course. But I was—and I had a great time. And Andrew [Albert?? CHECK] Szent-Gyorgy who was the course leader said, “No, you’ve got to stay for the second half because this guy—this crazy guy, Sydney Brenner is going to come and you’ve got to meet him. And it’s going to be, you know, it’s going to be great fun. And besides I want to keep playing tennis with you!” Because we did. We played a lot.
So anyway so I stayed for the second half. Sydney was indeed captivating. He sat down and talked to us every day at lunchtime about whatever we asked him to the day before. And he just gave us—we discovered every range of topic in biology. This was to a group of ten students or something like that.
And he gave his first public lecture on the worm that summer. And I just thought it was fantastic. And I asked him if I could come and be a postdoc there. And he said, “Well, write to me when you get home.”
This was ’69. And so I did. I went and became a postdoc in 1972 to work on the worm.
I mean doing the worm sequence with John, just the whole fifteen years of doing the worm map and the worm sequence with John was just a wonderful fifteen years.
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.