Jeffrey Miller on Liz Watson
  Jeffrey Miller     Biography    
Recorded: 08 Mar 2006

Well Liz Watson is someone of enormous personal character. And I remember the very first time we saw her, I think it was the summer of ’68 when I first went down there. You know Jim had just married her and she was much younger, in fact she was of the same age or younger than some of the graduate students who had come down. And not only that, you know, I believe Jim’s father was still alive, and he was very ailing. And so Liz had to deal not only with the fact that she would be meeting all these people, but with Jim’s ailing father. And from the very first meeting, I remember Jim brought her in to a room in one of the labs where I was with three or four other graduate students or post docs, and introduced us all. We shook her hand, and so on. And from the first second we were just, just disarmed basically. We just became Liz fans. Just her honesty, her poise. And in dealing with…, you know having to meet all these people as Jim’s wife. And then also you know, caring for Jim’s ailing father. It left an indelible mark on me. And she is somebody that I’m fortunate to say, even while I was a graduate student she and Jim would share many dinners with me at restaurants, or in their house. And I really have great admiration for her. When my father and mother came to Cold Spring Harbor once on a visit, Jim, Liz and my parents, we all went out in a motor boat onto the cove, and so on. And just a year later, my father passed away suddenly of a heart attack. And, uh, remember Liz was just very kind in her condolences and things like that. And she’s just somebody who really is a very remarkable person who doesn’t, who isn’t in the limelight, but so not enough people appreciate how strong she is. She’s a wonderful parent, and a, she authored a really terrific book about the architecture of the buildings at Cold Spring Harbor, and she’s an accomplished, I think, architectural student. And the book is really very beautiful…And I have so many memories of being with them and their children. In Japan, we happened to be there at a meeting together, and we’d all go out. And in Oxford, just a few years ago, my wife and I were in Oxford, and Jim and Liz took us out to a French restaurant. But the next day Liz spent the whole day showing us around Oxford, taking us on one of the Oxford tours that they had, and…Think of how many scientists there are that Liz does this for. She’s really an amazing person. And I’m happy to have a chance to say that because, since she’s out of the limelight just not enough people really appreciate that about her. And she’s also a very strong person. And I’ve learned a lot actually from her example.

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).