Recorded: 04 Aug 2003
Well I grew up in Minneapolis. My parents were both teachers. My father in particular but my mother also always encouraged my interest in science. And I knew I was interested in science when I was young, but it wasn’t until—I mean I remember specifically when I got this job at MIT that I told you about. And that was because I was at Antioch College that had this co-op program. And when there I was first introduced and I forget exactly what book I read, but when was I first introduced to the structure of DNA. And I just remember thinking, “wow! there’s a molecular basis for this genetic phenomena that I’ve learned about and been fascinated by.” But thinking that it really is all there in the molecules. This is just—I remember just trembling with excitement. It was so exciting to learn that. So I guess what turned me on to the whole rest of my life was learning about what Jim and Francis had done.
And then I was very fortunate to be, you know, a part of it since then. Very fortunate. And I have friends all over the world that are involved in this wonderful field. And to have known many of these people who are now no longer with us. And just to see it all happen. It’s incredible!
Joan Steitz is a prominent molecular biologist who earned her Ph.D. under Jim Watson at Harvard University in 1967. She joined the faculty at Yale University in 1970 and is currently the Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and the Director of the Molecular Genetics Program at the Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine at Yale. She is also an Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Steitz’s research involves determining the structure and function of small RNA-protein complexes.
She has received numerous awards including the National Medal of Science (1986), the Weizmann Women and Science Award (1994), the Novartis Drew Award in Biomedical Research (1999), the UNESCO-L'Oréal Women in Science Award (2001), and the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research (2002).