Recorded: 08 Mar 2006
Well, I think my advice has a general aspect to it because it’s really true of going into almost anything, and that is that you need to really, really be interested in it, and motivated and be dedicated to it. I like to tell some of my students that let’s remember Mozart and Beethoven were not 9 to 5 workers. If you want to achieve anything whether it’s in medicine or in science or in art, you have to be dedicated. And if you really love it and are dedicated, you’ll be in harmony with what you’re doing.
It’s not something to do as a career as a research scientist if you’re not really very, very interested and dedicated. Sure, you can participate in science in many ways that require less of a commitment, but if you want to have a research career and run a research lab, or even be a research associate, you have to have a kind of dedication. Success in this area certainly, as in many areas, requires a certain level of immersion. And if you’re not going to be immersed in it up to a certain degree, it doesn’t mean all the time, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up other interests or a family life, or whatever, if you’re not going to be immersed in it because you’re dedicated, you’re not going to be very successful. It’s a little bit like the Berlitz school of languages. If you’re not immersed, you’re not going to learn anything.
Science is a language in a sense, but there’s a whole culture associated with it. If you are interested and you love it and you’re dedicated, then those to me are the ingredients for success. So that’s my advice to people, is to be sure that you’re interested and dedicated and you really enjoy it, and then it can be a fabulous career and endeavor.
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).