Recorded: 01 Jun 2001
Harry Noller: I’ve also been influenced by Jim [Watson] over the years, indirectly. I never worked for him or was in his lab. But of course I’m his grandson, because I’ve worked for Alfred [Tissières] and Alfred worked for Jim. But when I was a graduate student, he came to Eugene and visited and Sidney Bernhard always had parties at his house that were great parties, with music and lots of wine and fun. And so you got to see these great people—Francis Crick and Sydney and Jim and so on, especially after they had quite a bit of wine. And then I met Jim again in Geneva because he’s very close to Alfred and he would come and visit, and you’d get a chance to talk to him in a very, sort of, relaxed setting. I think what I got from Jim was that he’s very much—he has an aristocratic, elitist look at things and that really influences how he thinks about science. Or maybe that’s part of his “you should always ask the most important questions, you should always do the best experiments, you should always work with the best people,” and all of this. And that’s another version of what Sydney was trying to say to me. It’s that sort of elitist flavor—but that’s really what you have to do in science. You can’t settle for second best, I guess is what Jim would say.
Winship Herr: He was just becoming director; he knew he was maybe going to become director when he tried to recruit you here.
Harry Noller: He needed a protein chemist to work on SV40 and these tumor viruses. And so, he wanted to recruit me as a protein chemist, resource person for the lab. I was of course skeptical that the lab was going to last more than a few months. That was April ’68.
Harry Noller: When he told me I had to come up with my own salary through grants, I was—I’m not that confident.
Winship Herr: What I want to say is it’s good in life to have someone who gives you a train ticket and punches it along the way. And Harry gave me my train ticket, and he put the destinations along the way, and he’s the one who punches it at each step. And that’s what a mentor—and everyone should be as lucky as me to have that.
Winship Herr, director of the University of Lausanne School of Biology and member of EMBO. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of California in 1974 and Ph.D. for studies on recombinant retroviruses in leukemogenic mice with Walter Gilbert from Harvard University in 1982. He completed his postdoctoral research studies in Cambridge (England) with Frederick Sanger and with Joe Sambrook in Cold Spring Harbor. After that he joined the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory faculty in 1984. From 1994 till 2002 he was an assistant director of the Laboratory and founding dean of the Watson School of Biological Sciences from 1998 till 2004. He is a professor of the Center for Integrative Genomics at the University of Lausanne.
Winship Herr is a former National Science Foundation predoctoral fellow, Rita Allen Foundation Scholar, Helen Hay Whitney postdoctoral fellow, and Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Biological Sciences.
Harry Noller, is best known for his work on on ribosomal RNA structure and function, currently the director of the University of California, Santa Cruz's Center for the Molecular Biology of RNA. He received his B.S. in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Oregon.
He received the Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Sciences together with Drs. Moore and Steitz for their research on the ribosome. Harry Noller has been awarded Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize granted by the Paul Ehrlich Foundation.
He is a member of National Academy of Science, RNA Society and American Academy of Art and Science.