Recorded: 31 May 2003
In some sense I thought about it and I think I had no choice. It had much to do with the institution where I went which is called the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta. It was - set up by a Cambridge Don. He was an Indian, he was an Indian physicist called P.C. [Prasanta Chandra] Mahalanobis, who is actually known in statistics. He was also one of India’s, head of the planning commission early on who created what is now apparently disastrous five-year plans. But this was a remarkable institution. It was a place very much like this (Cold Spring Harbor), not really as big. Where although it was called a statistical institute, there were departments of biochemistry and human genetics and sociology and engineering. The idea being that you don’t learn statistics in the absence of the sciences to which quantitative thinking would be appropriate. So in attending that, which is where I went after trying to dabble in medical school for a little while, which I found deathly boring. And I think it was probably the best decision I ever made. Because it (medicine) was descriptive. It was just rote description. This was a place where it seemed that I again felt the excitement of doing science. It was a place of reason and logic where you discussed heavily and hard, including with your professors. And this is where Haldane had been before, so obviously there was the ghost of Haldane. Meaning you could get to a library like this and in the old days when people in the back would have the names of people who had signed the book out before. So this was living science. In fact, it is really not surprising that I went into science. It’s to me very surprising that most of my classmates didn’t get into science because I think this place was again one of those institutions where this was the only and obvious thing to do.
Now it might be that I had tendencies towards that and almost everybody, you know, my professors and teachers sort of reinforced that belief. But there’s actually no doubt that that institution perhaps played the biggest role.
Aravinda Chakravarti received his Ph.D. in Human Genetics from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston (1979). After a postdoctoral year at the University of Washington in Seattle, he joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Biostatistics and later the Department of Human Genetics as a professor.
In 1994 he moved to Case Western Reserve as Professor of Genetics and Medicine to apply genomic and computer-based methods to study common diseases that arise from a combination of genetic and non-genetic factors.
Dr Chakravarti is one of the Editors-in-Chief of Genome Research, and serves on the Advisory and Editorial Boards of numerous national and international journals and societies. He is a past member of the NIH National Advisory Council of the National Human Genome Research Institute and has chaired the NIH Subcommittee in the 3rd 5-year Genome Project Plan, and continues to serve on several NIH panels.
In 2000 he became Professor of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and was named director of their new McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, where he is currently the Henry J. Knott Professor and Director.