Recorded: 03 Jul 2003
I think I was offered this job at Harvard. I can’t remember now. I went back to Caltech and told them about it and they said, “you’re crazy. Harvard kind of eats people like you and spit them out before breakfast. Then they tried to recruit me at Caltech and I turned Harvard down. I can’t remember whether I got a formal offer now, but I told Matt I wasn’t interested. Then in the early ‘70s Matt got interested in heat shock. I was spending a lot of time in Harvard in the early ‘70s. I was teaching. I used to teach a course there for Fotos Kavartis. I used to spend a lot of time and Matt had two very brilliant graduate students: Susan Lindquist, who is now director of the Whitehead [Institute] in MIT, and Steve Henikoff who is in the Hutch [Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center] in Seattle. They were both graduate students at the time and both working on heat shock. I spent a lot of time working with them. Then Matt got interested in transposable elements and I was quite interested in transposable elements. I used to spend a lot of time with Matt at that time. There are other stories, but I really can’t talk to them on tape.
Michael Ashburner, a leader in Drosophila Genetics and bioinformatics, received his B.A. (1964), M.A. (1968), Ph.D. (1968) and Sc.D. (1978) from the University of Cambridge, where he is currently professor of Biology in the Department of Genetics and a Professional Fellow of Churchill College.
He has been the joint head of European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and was co-founder of Flybase, the primary online database for Drosophila genetics and molecular biology, the Gene Ontology Consortium, an effort to coordinate biological databases through a defined taxonomy of gene function, and the Crete Meetings, a bi-annual event focusing on the developmental and molecular biology of Drosophila melanogaster.
Among many honors, he is the recipient of the G.J. Mendel Medal (Czech Republic 1998) and the George W. Beadle Medal (Genetics Society of America 1999).