Growing up on a ranch in west Texas, Randal Halfmann collected animals, from tarantulas to lizards. “We had snakes getting loose in the house,” he recalls, adding that his parents were not surprised by his sustained interest in biology. He earned a scholarship to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, where he did undergraduate research with David Stelly, studying the cytogenetics of cotton. Being startled awake early one morning by a lab-related idea confirmed for him that science was the right career path. “This must be what I should be doing,” Halfmann remembers thinking. After graduating with a BS in genetics, he went to MIT, where he joined Susan Lindquist’s lab and completed a PhD in biology. Halfmann, who is part of the first cohort of NIH Director’s Early Independence Awardees, now runs a lab at the University of Texas Southwestern...

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