Recorded: 06 Sep 2001
…The first person that pops into my head is Dan Nathans as one of the scientists that I knew that I had really wanted to model myself after. I would characterize Dan as careful in his thinking. Very careful and thoughtful about things. Thinking them through, and also not being judgmental about other science. I think the scientist that I would never want to be as a scientist who looks at someone else’s work and says that’s not worthwhile to do. And because you know what’s worthwhile is one of those qualified things that one—you can qualify in different ways and I think—Dan was on my thesis committee. He was a very important person on my committee because I was very often doing things that were a little outside of the usual. And he had breadth enough to sort of include that in his thinking. I think the other type scientist I am very much is like my advisor, Tom Kelley—rigorous! Trying to do the experiment as best that can be done. Not being satisfied when you know you can do it better. I guess the other thing is that I’m trained as a physician and medical science versus basic science—those are two cultures that oftentimes when they’re trying to work together they come into conflict with one another. My science really—is much—so there are scientists who can become very focused in what they do. I think that many of us; you know we work on a very small part of the universe. We don’t think about how the universe impinges on the rest of the universe and that’s not the kind of scientist I want to be. I want to be this type of scientist who thinks how does this fit into the whole picture. And I think that the people who are able to do that are better scientists. I think Bruce Stillman is one of those people. It isn’t always the case that scientists that are in leadership positions have that. I think that when scientists are leading and making decisions about funding and resources and teaching at universities, they need to think about how their research activity fits into the world. I’m also interested in these issues of how what we do affects everybody else. Again, the best scientists are those who are thinking about the impact that our science has on society. Those type of things as well. Again there are some scientists who stay very far away from that and there are others who realize its very important in terms of being able to continue to do the things that we do but as well thinking about how this benefits mankind besides just the information and the knowledge that we create. So, and I think Dan Nathans was sort of a statesman as well. I think he really exemplifies a lot of those qualities.
James Sherley is a scientist on the forefront of adult stem-cell research. He earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.D./Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology (BCMB Program) from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
He was a Principal Investigator in the Division of Medical Science at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is currently a Principal Investigator at the Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health at MIT. His present research is in integrated studies in somatic stem cell kinetics.
Sherley was honored as a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Science in 1993, and in 2001 became a Pew Science and Society Institute Fellow.