Wallace Marshall says the town he grew up in on Long Island, New York, had an “amazing library,” which he used to feed his early passion for science. One book that had particular impact gave instructions for building a secret home laboratory, which Marshall did—out of milk cartons and a cardboard box. He enrolled as an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and majored in both biochemistry and electrical engineering because of an idea he had in high school—“to invent a computer that you could grow inside of a living cell.” Though he didn’t get very close to that goal, he did research in both molecular biology and in engineering and began to feel “that engineering could learn a lot from biology.” Marshall earned a PhD in biochemistry from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), working in the lab of John Sedat. He...

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