Jeffrey Miller on Jim Watson Stories and Memories from Harvard
  Jeffrey Miller     Biography    
Recorded: 08 Mar 2006

Well sure, ah, actually my favorite initial story about Jim is at a time when I was deciding which lab to work in. And I uh, near the very beginning of my time at Harvard I wandered up to the third floor, and that was really before I had said anything to Jim other than at that committee meeting. And here was this office with J.D. Watson on it. It was like a hallowed name. And I’m standing there walking back, admiring this, and I bump into someone, and I turn around, and it’s Jim. Okay, and so, I, uh, was about to say, Excuse me, and then he suddenly says, “I’m having a party Saturday night at my house. Come at 9.” So, and then he disappears. And I’m just sort of walking on Cloud 9 all week, because, you know, the Great Jim Watson has asked me to a party, I’m a graduate student, this is incredible. And this is in December, and it was freezing out. And he lived at a hallowed address: 10 Appian Way. And he actually lived on the second floor of a typical Cambridge wooden frame house, and there were stairs on the outside. So I walk up the stairs, and just looking at my watch, you know at 9 o’clock on the dot, I knock on the door. There’s nothing. And I knock again…there’s nothing. So I knock a third time, and suddenly the door opens. And it’s Jim, and he says “What are you doing here?” And I went, “Bbbb, rememm,…pparty…ccome at 9.” And then he says, what I was later to learn was classic Watsonian logic, he said, “Everyone in Cambridge knows that when I say 9, I mean 10.” Okay. So he says “Well, you may as well come in.” So then I came in and of course I had to suffer there with no one being there until at 9:30 Dave Denhardt and his wife came proving that they were the second least cool people in Cambridge. And then sure enough at 10:00, 200 people arrive. And actually as it turns out, it was Mario Capecchi’s thesis party. And it was really a fabulous party. There were quite a lot of scientists there. And I realized that he was right. Everybody in Cambridge knew that MP: Human genome and Jim.

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).