Tim Tully on Advice to Young Scientists
  Tim Tully     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Aug 2003

Think outside of the box, and don’t let the money tell you what you should work on, but rather decide what to work on and go find the money to do it.

I think there are two basic rules that I live by anyway. One was a lesson taught to me by my gradate advisor, Jerry Hirsch at the University of Illinois. He basically said that there is bankruptcy in science without scholarship. He emphasized and drilled into us that we had to do our homework and know our subject in order to be a good teacher or a researcher. I take that as a main lesson. If you’re going to give a lecture, you damn well better know what you’re talking about. That means for anybody, no matter how many times you’ve taught that lecture in a row, you need to go read the literature, catch up on what’s happening, reeducate yourself.

Personally, one of the reasons why I like to lecture is that it’s continuing adult education for me. Because of that standard of scholarship, it forces me to go back and read the literature and learn current new information about things that I might now be centrally involved in. That is lesson one and that is important. That’s very important.

Lesson two came from my mother. She was a great cheerleader for me and my career. She was very supportive and always showed great enthusiasm and interest about what I was doing. She would ask me what I was doing. Of course, I would start to tell her in technical lingo. And one time she just kind of put her hand on my shoulder and she said, listen, honey. Can you just explain that in a way that your mother could understand? I said, yes. And I realized that that’s generally true. The more technical science gets, and the more that our technical work generalizes to other aspects of science, the more we scientists have to learn how to communicate clearly the details of our experiments to people who are not experts to the technical jargon. So that was a good piece of advice. I have lived by it ever since. Try to explain these things in a way your mother would understand.

Tim Tully is a molecular geneticist, interested in finding the genetic and biological basis of memory in order to better identify pharmacological and behavioral treatments for memory loss. In 1981, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Tully joined the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory staff in 1991 to work on discovering genes involved with memory. He became the St. Giles Foundation Professor of Neuroscience and led the Drosophila learning and memory program. In 1998 he founded Helicon Therapeutics, Inc., a development-stage biotechnology firm that works on new therapies for memory loss and other cognition disorders. In June, 2007, Tully left Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to become Helicon's Acting Chief Scientific Officer, and assume a key role in the Michigan-based Dart Foundation as it expands its interest in funding neuroscience research.

His work on the transcriptional factor CREB gave way to the first experimental demonstration of enhanced memory formation in genetically engineered animals. Tully works to identify genes involved with long-term memory formation. Tully has determined that by the regulation of gene expression, new, long-term memories can be formed due to the growth of new synapses.