Recorded: 08 Mar 2006
…one of Louis Pasteur’s famous comments is, The chance favors the prepared mind. So there is an aspect of serendipity in research, but I think Louis Pasteur hit it right on the head. But what Jim showed is there’s no luck involved. I mean on the one hand, he and Francis Crick, they did a lot of rational attempts, trial and error, they finally produced a structure. If he had never done anything ever again, that would still make him one of the greatest biologists of all time. But if somebody were to say, well that was luck, he disproved that by showing everything else he did. He and his co-workers were among the first people to prove the existence of messenger RNA. He ran, together with Wally Gilbert, a combined group that at Harvard that was probably the best graduate student lab in the world. Okay. The MRC had a great laboratory, but it was much more post doc oriented. His ability to take Cold Spring Harbor to the next steps, to do the human genome project, to write these books. There’s no luck involved. It’s brilliance and hard work. And his supporting the careers of so many people. Where he gets the energy to do all this, I have no idea. There’s no luck involved in Jim’s success. It’s well deserved and hard earned.
Jeffrey H. Miller, Ph.D., is the Distinguished Professor of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles. After receiving his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Rochester, he did graduate work in biochemistry and molecular biology at Harvard in the department that included Jim Watson and Walter Gilbert, doing his thesis work under Jonathan Beckwith at Harvard Medical School. His postdoctoral work was pursued under Benno Müller-Hill at the Institute for Genetics of the University of Cologne in Germany, followed by 11 years on the faculty at the University of Geneva's Department of Molecular Biology, which was then headed by Alfred Tissières. In 1983 he joined the faculty at UCLA, where his scientific focus has been large-scale DNA sequencing and genomic analysis, the enzymology of DNA repair, protein structure, and the role of DNA repair enzymes in human cancer. He received the 2007 Career Award for Research from the Environmental Mutagen Society.
Miller has been a frequent participant at Cold Spring Harbor Symposia, a course lecturer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and a co-organizer of two meetings at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Banbury Center. He has been a consultant and principal in various biotechnology companies since the 1980s. In 1994 he co-founded Diversa Corporation, which has merged to become Verenium, a publicly owned biofuel company. He is the author of several books and laboratory manuals published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, including "Experiments in Molecular Genetics" (1972), "A Short Course in Bacterial Genetics" (1992), and "Discovering Molecular Genetics" (1996).