Jerry Adams on Jim Watson's Influence
  Jerry Adams     Biography    
Recorded: 15 Jan 2003

I put a lot of emphasis on Jim’s belief that the importance of the problem, so I’ve always felt that it was important to try to give people challenging problem. But one that they would somehow be able to make some progress on. So that’s the difficult judgment call of trying to decide what’s the most important thing that you can do with the tools that are [at] hand at the moment. And so it’s a very great responsibility in a way to have a student because you’ve got to help them find that sort of, that key problem and help them through all the difficulties.

Incidentally, going back to Jim, Jim was not really all that good on the day to day kind of supervision that most of us would have to give a student. He didn’t really, I think, ever help people to solve experimental difficulties very much. What he did was to create a lab that had a lot of talented young people in it so basically you had to learn a lot from your peers from the other students. And inevitably that happens in any lab. But I think in my own lab I would probably have to take a lot more responsibility for helping students to struggle with what kind of experimental problems they had and at least try to point them to who they could get extra advice on how to overcome the difficulties.

Jerry Adams, currently Professor and Joint Head of Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, is noted for his achievements in molecular biology, immunology and the molecular genetics of cancer. After completing his BSc in Chemistry at Emory University in 1962, he completed his Ph.D. at Harvard under James Watson. During this time, Adams and Mario Capecchi discovered the initiation mechanism for polypeptides. Adams earned his degree in 1967 and went on to do post-doctoral work at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, where he met his wife, Suzanne Cory. They did further research in Geneva, and in 1972 joined The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia.

Adams and his research team have made many major contributions to medical science. They were the first to clone mammalian genes in Australia and discovered: (i) that antibody genes encode to recombine in a myriad of ways to fight infection; (ii) the genetic mutation that leads to Burkitt’s lymphoma and (iii) the connection between apoptosis and cancer, while studying bcl-2 gene in follicular lymphoma (with David Vaux).

Adams is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (1986), a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1992), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Victoria (1997) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.