Recorded: 04 Aug 2003
There were sort of two factions in the lab with a third beginning. There were people who worked on ribosomes. That would include Peter Moore. There were people who worked on the RNA phage R17, that was the group I was allied with. And there were few people that worked on—actually two other projects; beginning work on lambda and work on the lac operon. So that was basically what was happening at the lab at the time. And so my thesis was on the isolation of a minor protein component of the phage particle which is a spherical particle. And this minor component which you can’t really see if you look at pictures of the phage. However it was responsible for attachment of the virus to its whole cells and for its ability to get its RNA genome inside of the host cells so that it can multiply and divide.
Joan Steitz is a prominent molecular biologist who earned her Ph.D. under Jim Watson at Harvard University in 1967. She joined the faculty at Yale University in 1970 and is currently the Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and the Director of the Molecular Genetics Program at the Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine at Yale. She is also an Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Steitz’s research involves determining the structure and function of small RNA-protein complexes.
She has received numerous awards including the National Medal of Science (1986), the Weizmann Women and Science Award (1994), the Novartis Drew Award in Biomedical Research (1999), the UNESCO-L'Oréal Women in Science Award (2001), and the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research (2002).