Nancy Hopkins on Christiane (Janni) Nusslein-Volhard
  Nancy Hopkins     Biography    
Recorded: 09 Apr 2001

Well, there is a similarity, of course, in these people. I mean, I think that all three of these people [Jim Watosn, Barbara McClintock, and Christiane Nusslein-Volhard] are geniuses of some kind and unique in their ability tothink independently and to have the confidence and know that they’re right and to follow their scientific dream, even if everyone else said that’s ridiculous. They all have that, and to know these people is an incredible privilege. Christiane Nusslein-Volhard is another one of my absolute heroes. I think one of the most thrilling moments of my whole career was going with Janni Nusslein to the Nobel Prize ceremony. I went as a guest of hers and you sit in this very large hall and one of the most memorable experiences you could have is to be at the Nobel ceremony; there’s the ceremony itself, but more [exciting] is the dinner afterwards. You sit in this exquisite room and all around you are all these young students from the university, dressed so beautifully in their evening gowns and their military hats. It’s so beautiful and everything is golden and at the top of the stairs in this old building, stone building, coming down the stairs, was Janni Nusslein arm-in-arm with the King of Sweden. I’m still thinking of it in tears. I was overwhelmed! Because to see a women of my generation who had made a discovery which to me, after DNA, maybe what she and Eric Wieschaus discovered is maybe the greatest or one of the greatest, maybe the fourth of fifth greatest discovery in biology in modern times. To me, the sort of logic by which you make an animal, literally is what she discovered. It meant so much to me to see this; it was definitely one of the most memorable moments in my life.

Nancy Hopkins is a developmental biologist and the Amgen, Inc. Professor of Biology at MIT. Working under Jim Watson and Mark Ptashne, Hopkins earned her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1971. As a postdoctoral fellow she moved to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where she continued working under Watson researching DNA tumor viruses. In 1973 she joined the MIT faculty as an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer Research, where she researched the mechanisms of replication and leukemogenesis by RNA tumor viruses for 17 years.

Hopkins has also led an ongoing effort to end discrimination against women in science. In 1995 she was appointed Chair of the first Committee on Women Faculty in the School of Science at MIT, and in 2000 she was appointed Co-Chair of the first Council on Faculty Diversity at MIT. Hopkins co-authored the fourth edition of Molecular Biology of the Gene. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.