Gerald Rubin on Involvement in Genomics
  Gerald Rubin     Biography    
Recorded: 30 May 2003

Well, I guess [it] depends on when you, how you define the start of the genomics field. So I am old enough to have been in this field before one could sequence DNA, before there was cloning, before there were restriction enzymes. But, actually, my first science project was at Cold Spring Harbor in the summer of 1970, and I worked in Ray Gesteland’s lab and we were taking mitochondrial DNA and translating it in E. coli extracts to try to understand what proteins that mitochondria incorporated by doing transcription translation from the mitochondria and looking at that radioactive protein. So we were trying to understand before you could sequence DNA what the small genome encoded. So if that’s genomics, then I’ve been doing this as long as I’ve been in the field. And then I spent two summers as an URP in Cold Spring Harbor, and then I went and did my PhD in Cambridge, England at the MRC. And there for my PhD, I sequenced an RNA, 158-base RNA. So I like to tell my current students that now my PhD, which I spent two years doing could be done in a tenth of a second, because of the rapid rate of sequencing. And when I was a graduate student is when restriction enzymes were found, and the first recombinant DNA clones were made right about the time I got my PhD. And then I went to Stanford University to do a postdoc with David Hogness, and that’s when I began working on the drosophila genome project. When I got to Stanford, they had about five hundred clones of drosophila, recombinant clones, and what I spent my first six months as a postdoc doing, so that is was late 1974, early 1975 was making the first library from drosophila. There was more than one hit that had enough clones to represent the whole genome. So this is really, I guess, the beginning of the drosophila genome project. And we would clone genes, and we can do restriction digests and Southern Blots, and we could begin to understand how the DNA was organized in chromosomes. So that was really my beginning, if you will, in genomics.

Gerald Rubin is a geneticist, molecular and cell biologist. As Director of the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project, he led the sequencing of the entire fruit fly genome. Currently, as Vice President and Director of the Janelia Farm Research Campus at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia, his research focus is on developing the biological and computer tools that are capable of analyzing and displaying the vast amount of information available from the genomic DNA sequencing of the fruit fly. He uses these advanced techniques to decipher gene regulation and expression at a genome-wide level in Drosophila and determine the function of certain fruit fly genes.

Gerald Rubin is also a professor of Genetics and Development at the University of California, Berkeley. He came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as an URP (Undergraduate Research Program) in the early 70’s working under Lionel Crawford and Ray Gesteland before moving to Cambridge to earn his Ph.D. in molecular biology. He did postdoctoral work at Stanford University School of Medicine and became an assistant professor of biological chemistry at Harvard Medical School prior to commencing his genetics professorship at Berkeley in 1983.

Gerald Rubin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. Among the awards he has received is the American Chemical Society Eli Lilly Award in biological chemistry.