H. Robert Horvitz on Jim Watson, Mentor
  H. Robert Horvitz     Biography    
Recorded: 09 Apr 2001

As a student, I basically got to know Jim and he—I think I should back up from all of that and say that I shall forever be indebted to Jim for many things over many years, because he has been a mentor in the deep sense of the word. Not simply giving me advice about science, like telling me my first finding actually was interesting, and I should send it to Nature instead of someplace else. But about helping me to think about different kinds of problems and different priorities and different approaches and also making it not one way. There was, more than now, some years ago when I spent more time, perhaps more free time at Cold Spring Harbor, and perhaps he had a little more free time as well; we had many conversations in which I felt that not only was I asking him for input and wisdom, but occasionally he’d turn to me and ask me things that mattered in his professional and personal life both. And that’s very special to be able to really share in both. Remind me now what the question was because I suspect I didn’t answer it.

H. Robert Horvitz received his Ph.D. in 1974 from Harvard University, under the tutelage of Jim Watson. He joined the MIT Department of Biology faculty in 1978, and was named David Koch Professor of Biology in 2000. He is also Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and was appointed Investigator at the McGovern Institute in 2001.

Horvitz is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience. In 2002, he was award the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Sydney Brenner and John Sulston “for their discoveries concerning 'genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death'."

Horvitz currently studies how genes control the development of the nervous system and how the nervous system controls behavior. He has elucidated a molecular genetic pathway for programmed cell death (apoptosis), which is fundamental to nervous system development in all animals.