Joan Steitz on Jim Watson & CSHL: Directing Science
  Joan Steitz     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Aug 2003

Well, I mean at the beginning he was very much convinced that the cancer problem could be solved by studying animal tumor viruses, both DNA viruses and even though the lab didn’t focus on RNA viruses. So that was a big thrust at the beginning and that was very important to discover splicing. The movement forward of molecular biology, understanding a lot about DNA replication; laying the foundation for so much of what has happened subsequently in terms of oncogenes and their importance in cancer. I’m not—I had more contact with the lab at the very early stage and then I’ve had contact with it just recently. And in-between what happened was Jim’s enchantment with neurobiology and beginning to think that, you know, one could make inroads into neurobiology by using molecular biology. And that’s a phase that I don’t really know that much about. But once again he was absolutely right. You know, he picked the timing.

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).