Bruce Stillman on Becoming A Scientist
  Bruce Stillman     Biography    
Recorded: 14 Aug 2003

I guess the real interest in [science] came from, in my mind it came from my grandfather, my mother’s father, who was an engineer. Every time he would come around our house he would say, "Oh so you’re going to go into medicine". He kind of did this when I was a little kid. And I guess that got me at least thinking about that idea. And then when I was about 11 or 12 years old I got, bought, or was given as a present an encyclopedia of medicine and human biology. It was a 24-volume set and I read a lot of that. I was fascinated by it. And so from then I wanted to do medicine. I pursued that path by actually working in hospitals when I was 16. I had joined an organization where we end[ed] up doing first aid and then I was able to work in the emergency rooms and anyway, I got into that. By the time I went to university I was sure that I probably didn’t want to practice medicine. That I really wanted to do research. I think that influence came from high school in Sydney, when I moved to Sydney. When I went to Sydney University I remember I spoke to two people in my first year. One was a professor of genetics who I greatly admired and the other was a professor of pathology who I didn’t admire, but nonetheless I spoke to him. And the professor of genetics, a guy named Spencer Smith-White, told me that I was nuts if I wanted to do medicine because I wouldn't learn science. And the professor of pathology, who I forget his name, told me that I was nuts if I wanted to do science because medicine is the greatest thing in the world and why would I want to do research. So I listened to Smith-White and did genetics and biochemistry. I never regretted it. I regret not knowing a lot about clinical medicine. Particularly now because I think the future of science in basic research is to really integrate into clinical medicine. And the people I admire the most are clinician scientists. People who can really do both—be good clinicians but most importantly be scientists who are of the quality that I admire. And they’re very rare.

Molecular biologist and biochemist, Bruce Stillman, received his Ph.D. from the John Curtain School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in 1979. His long affiliation with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory began in 1979 when he arrived as a postdoctoral fellow. He became a member of the scientific staff (1981), Senior Scientist (1985), Assistant Director (1990), Director and Chief Executive Officer (1994), and President (2003), the position he currently holds. Stillman has also been Director of the Cancer Center at CSHL since 1992.

His research concerns DNA replication, yeast genetics, cell cycle and chromatin structure. His work has elucidated the reason why DNA sequences and silenced states of chromatin are pass through generations. His lab is concerned with understanding the mechanisms and regulation of DNA replication in eukaryotic cells, a process that ensures accurate duplication and inheritance of genetic material from one cell generation to the next.

Bruce Stillman has received numerous awards and honors and research awards. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (1993), and as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2000).

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