James Kent on Meeting Jim Watson
  James Kent     Biography    
Recorded: 31 May 2003

It was, I guess—it was in D.C. They had a big “do” and they were announcing, along with this press conference when they were announcing the drafts of the human genome. And he was there. And, yeah, that’s when he said—he sort of congratulated me. I don’t know. I was still kind—that was pretty awesome in a way. He’s just so famous. But I guess I’m not nearly so famous and I hope I never be actually.

You can tell it’s hard for him because I don’t think that many people sort of see him as a person and will just talk to him. Everybody wants his autograph. Everybody sorts of wants his blessings somehow and stuff like that. I don’t know. I guess I’ve never been very awestruck. I was a little bit awestruck, but he just seemed like a person and we talked and he’s pretty funny. We were from very different generations and stuff. I think he’s more pro technology. I’m kind of a technological luddite. I think we need be careful when we think of things. And I think Jim perceives technology as technology is a good thing, you know, progress and stuff like that. I don’t know. You know, I think progress is good and bad. And we need to think about it.

But on the other hand, it was his own insistence, I think, that these ELSI things were coming down. And that does get people talking which is good.

Jim Kent is a research scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz's Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering. After a stint working in the computer animation industry, he entered the Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology Ph.D. program at Santa Cruz. While completing his degree, he became increasingly interested in bioinformatics. Concurrently, the human genome was being sequenced, accumulating in the databases and was scheduled to be released in one month’s time—however, still no technology was in place to assemble its many sequences. In one month, Jim Kent created a computer program called the GigAssembler and computationally compiled for the first time, the entire human genome so that it could be released to the public at its intended deadline.

Jim Kent focuses on understanding the way in which genes are turned on and off to create varying outcomes.