Recorded: 20 Feb 2001
Well, I was an undergraduate at Cambridge University in England, where I read what's called Natural Sciences, and I was always interested in genetics. In part, because genetics was a way of using mathematics or logic to study a very complex issue in biology and so genetics had always appealed to me. Also, I wasn't that good at mathematics, and I thought that the level of mathematics required for genetics was about what I could handle. And I went on from there to do a Ph.D. at Cambridge and I was more interested in genetics than I was in any particular organism but plant genetics was very well studied at Cambridge, actually, in the plant breeding institute. So that was an opportunity that I took to study plants. I could easily have done Drosophila or yeast or anything else at the time, but since then I've become very enamored with plants. I think plants were the first genetic organism, the first model of genetics, was done in plants with Mendel's peas and many of the great advances in genetics have been made in plants. So I'm actually delighted to have got into plants but it really wasn't from an agricultural perspective or anything like that.
Rob Martienssen is a plant molecular geneticist and professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1986 and did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley.
As a young scientist, he worked closely with Barbara McClintock. He currently studies plant epigenetics and development using functional genomics. He was awarded the Kumho International Science Award in Plant Biology and Biotechnology (2001).