Recorded: 30 May 2003
So, I graduated from Washington with my M.D. /PhD. Degree and entered a residency training program in pathology. And after one year of clinical activities, I had the opportunity to join a research laboratory; and that’s, in fact, why I picked pathology as a clinical specialty.
And as a graduate student, I had actually worked on something very far removed from genetics or genomics. In fact, when I was a graduate student, it was in the heart of the molecular biology revolution. All of my classmates were cloning this [and] cloning that and doing biology by recombinant DNA work. And I, actually, at that time didn’t find it very appealing. I was working on glycosylation; trying to study how proteins were basically decorated with sugar molecules.
When I graduated medical school and then did a little bit of pathology training and then looked around for a laboratory to do postdoctoral research in; I became enamored with the idea of sort of training in the arena of genetics very broadly, because I sort of saw a future of diagnostic medicine, in which I trained clinically and what I expected to be an exciting era in genetics leading to molecular diagnostics.
At that point in time I really didn’t know much about the genome project to be quite honest with you. I was at Washington University, and I decided what was the most important thing to do, was not to pick a laboratory necessarily where the individual science was the real drawing card; rather I thought the most important thing to do was to go to a laboratory that were doing, [where] basically cutting edge technology was being developed. And once I sort of made that decision it made the identification of the lab simple. Because there was one obvious laboratory at Washington University at that time doing exactly the kind of work I was looking for, and that was Maynard Olson’s laboratory.
So I walked into his laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow, and it was only after joining his lab that I even learned in any serious way about the genome project. I was just interested in genomics. And I was interested in this guy who was making maps of the yeast genome because I could imagine that that could become very interesting. It had just developed a cloning system for—actually a graduate school classmate of mine was, two of them actually, were instrumental in developing this new cloning system called yeast artificial chromosome or YACs. And I thought that was sort of neat and it was probably going to lead to the next generation of studying DNA. So I joined Maynard’s lab and I knew the genome project was being discussed and all that. But that wasn’t the draw. But I got involved in the lab and the project I got involved in put me in this meeting in 1989 as I reminisce as a first year postdoc giving a talk that caught quite a lot of attention because it was really the first major demonstration of how to use YAC libraries for building maps of human DNA. And before I knew it, it was so obvious that where the applications were, were right in the center of the genome project. I never realized the rest was history. Several aspects of it is that in particular it had such a good combination for me from the point of view of what I like to do and what I do well at. I mean it was sort of the marrying of fundamental knowledge and use of technologies; but also organizing large projects, managing large projects and figuring out to do things on a high throughput. And, you know, I point out often times that it was, you know, a lot of things in a genome center or in a sequencing center or in a large genomics laboratory is not radically different than the way you think about what goes on in a hospital diagnostic laboratory, which is how I trained clinically. So I don’t think it was completely by surprise that I gravitated towards front line activities in the genome project based on what my clinical background had been because that’s what attracted me in the first place.
So the truth is that I religiously attend the annual genome meeting here which this year has morphed into the annual symposium. But, you know, I organized the meeting for several years and I sort of miss it. This is the meeting of the year.
Eric Green received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin (1981) and his M.D. and Ph.D. from Washington University School of Medicine (1987). During his residency training in clinical pathology, he worked Maynard Olson’s lab, where he developed approaches for utilizing yeast artificial chromosomes (YACs) to construct physical maps of DNA. His work also included initiation of a project to construct a complete physical map of human chromosome 7.
In 1992, he became an assistant professor of pathology, genetics, and medicine as well as a co-investigator in the Human Genome Center at Washington University. In 1994, he moved his research laboratory to the intramural program of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health. In November, 2009 he was appointed Director of NHGRI, after serving in the roles of NHGRI scientific director, director of NHGRI Division of Intramural Research, Chief of the Genome Technology Branch and that branches Physical Mapping Section, and Director of the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center (NISC). His lab’s current focus is on the application of large-scale DNA to study problems in human genomics, genetics, and biology.
Among the numerous awards Eric Green has received are induction into the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2002 and into the America Association of Physicians in 2007. He is a founding editor of Genome Research, has edited the series, Genome Analysis: A Laboratory Manual, and, since 2005, is co-editor of the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics.