First Person

Aaron Klug
Josh Roberts | Aug 1, 2004 | 3 min read
Aaron Klug's career has taken many turns, spanning physics, biology, chemistry, and administration. 
Richard Dawkins
The Scientist Staff | Jun 20, 2004 | 3 min read
Amid stacks of books in the front room of his house near Oxford University, writer and evolutionist Richard Dawkins points to a piece of memorabilia: A replica of the Australopithecus africanus skull known as "Mrs. Ples," a gift to him from a 1997 lecture in South Africa. Dawkins, who spent the first two years of his life in East Africa, still remembers the whitewashed huts his parents built near the Mbagathi River, a scene he calls his private Eden. "On a larger scale, Africa is Eden to us all,
Peter Wagner
Christine Bahls | Jun 6, 2004 | 3 min read
Tell us about your scientific evolution as an adultCourtesy of Peter WagnerI left Germany in 1989 for Switzerland. I was always interested in interdisciplinary work, and I enjoy going to places to find smart people. I studied biochemistry and chemistry in Switzerland and Germany. I received a Humboldt Fellowship from Germany to study at Stanford. I arrived in the US in 1995.What did you do at Stanford?When I left Switzerland, I combined three fields: protein engineering with materials science an
Harold Varmus
The Scientist Staff | May 23, 2004 | 3 min read
What was the genesis of the Public Library of Science?Courtesy of Harold VarmusA conversation with Pat Brown in San Francisco in December 1998, a year before I left the NIH, about the open-access preprint archive that physicists had set up at Los Alamos National Laboratory got me thinking for the first time about open-access publishing in biology and medicine. The Public Library of Science began as an advocacy group for the NIH archive, PubMedCentral, about a year after I left the NIH. Subsequen
Denis Duboule
Christine Bahls | May 9, 2004 | 3 min read
What happened when the science bug bit?Courtesy of Denis DubouleIt overrode everything else. It's a little bit of a problem now; it's all or nothing. It's something you are always thinking about, even when climbing a mountain, or swimming with children in the sea.What else changed?I have stopped playing tennis, stopped playing music, but I ride a bike; it's also obsessional. I race against myself. It may have something to do with reaching 50. [He's 49] You have to show yourself that you can stil
J. Craig Venter
Christine Bahls | Apr 25, 2004 | 3 min read
Do you believe that biological production of hydrogen will exist someday?File PhotoMolecular biologist J. Craig Venter is a scientist whose status transcends his own circle. Within the last year, Venter has been interviewed or mentioned in dozens of newspaper stories. His bold, singular scientific adventures generate comment and criticism, and his direct, conversational approach sounds more plebian than patrician. He's not a man who readily bows to barriers, a quality the press finds irresistibl
Leroy Hood
Christine Bahls | Apr 11, 2004 | 3 min read
Tell us about your recent birthday partyCourtesy of The Institute of Systems BiologyMy wife organized a symposium. It was wonderful. Some of my students that I haven't seen for 20 years attended. The thing that I found the most interesting was how diverse the directions were that my students took. It validates my ideas on how to educate people, to be flexible, and to be willing to explore new things.What scares you?I don't think that this scares me [because] I am confident it will work in the en
Philippa Marrack
Christine Bahls | Mar 28, 2004 | 3 min read
What's the secret of your successful partnership?Courtesy of Philippa MarrackWe're interested in the same intellectual puzzles. [The T cell is] real interesting; it usually does the opposite of what you think it should do. We have a shared passion for this, understanding how this cell works.Have your first impressions of the United States changed?When I came here, my first impression was that everybody, including the guy pumping gas, believed that life had possibilities. I came from class-ridden
Mary-Claire King
Sam Jaffe | Mar 14, 2004 | 3 min read
You were at Berkeley, the center of activism in the 1960s, during a tumultuous time. Do you recall it with nostalgia or regret?Courtesy of The Seattle TimesMainly pride. I don't indulge in nostalgia about that period because it was a terrible time for our country. It's very American: When you see something wrong, you try to fix it. The single most effective thing we did was on the day after the US invaded Cambodia, we got out our suit jackets and shirtwaist dresses – not clothes that any o
Mario R. Capecchi
Christine Bahls | Mar 1, 2004 | 3 min read
How did you survive as a child?Courtesy of Mario R. CapecchiPart luck, part [ly being] resourceful, you had to get food by stealing. I became fairly good with it.... Once you are operating in a particular area, and your cover is blown, then you move on.What scars remain? What strengths did you gain?The easiest way is not even to think about it. The strengths are self-reliance. There are different ways of doing science. What we like to do [at this lab] is do it all ourselves.... To me, it's impor
Steve A. Kay
Christine Bahls | Feb 15, 2004 | 3 min read
Courtesy of Scripps Research InstituteIf he weren't so young, the moniker "Father Time" might fit geneticist Steve A. Kay quite well. At 44, the man whose lab determined how flowers know when to bloom is admittedly obsessed with clocks, whether they go off in Arabidopsis, Drosophila, or the mouse. The fascination began after he helped discover the cab gene in the early 1980s as a postdoc at Rockefeller University. "These circadian rhythms were doing a lot to me," he says in his characteristic, t
Robert C. Gallo
Josh Roberts | Feb 1, 2004 | 2 min read
What is your favorite paper?Figure 1I don't have any, because they are just transient things. ... There are a lot of steps, I think, in terms of [creating] long-term value.But if you had to choose?For me, IL-2 and HTLV-1, because they opened the field of human retrovirology. We published IL-2 in 1976 in Science, 1 and we published the first discovery of the human retrovirus in 1980 in PNAS.2Do you regret the high-profile controversy regarding the discovery of HIV with Luc Montagnier's group at t
E.O. Wilson
Christine Bahls | Jan 18, 2004 | 3 min read
Was the writing always effortless?[No.] It's easier to be a good scientist than a good writer. It's like playing a musical instrument; the elements of writing become automatic. Like any mental endeavor, you're running on automatic, allowing you to concentrate on the scenery.Tell us about your careerMy career was substantially based on three mental qualities. One, I love detail, especially in natural history. I actually read technical monographs on obscure groups of plants and animals and have pr
First Person | Fotis Kafatos
The Scientist | Dec 14, 2003 | 4 min read
Today, Kafatos, 63, has not lost his drive.
Marc Vidal
The Scientist Staff | Dec 1, 2003 | 4 min read
First Person | Marc Vidal Courtesy of The Marc Vidal Lab In 1996, Marc Vidal, proteomic cartographer and coinventor of the reverse two-hybrid system, couldn't find work that paid more than a postdoc's salary. He survived on a National Institutes of Health grant and the good graces (if not the prescience) of Harvard University cell biologist Ed Harlow, who believed in Vidal's vision to map protein to protein and let the young Belgian work in his lab. The ideas weren't fashionable, Vida
Ann Graybiel
The Scientist Staff | Nov 2, 2003 | 4 min read
First Person | Ann Graybiel Courtesy of MIT Talk to neuroscientist Ann Graybiel for a short period of time and she immediately generates certain impressions: The words tenacious, steadfast, and curious come to mind. Since 1971, Graybiel has stayed the course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying basal ganglia, discerning their architecture and describing their neurochemical organization. Known to the press as the woman who studies how behavior becomes habit, Graybiel is co
Alice D. Sullivan
The Scientist Staff | Oct 19, 2003 | 4 min read
First Person | Alice D. Sullivan Courtesy of Melissa Jacobs Alice D. Sullivan, a retired California Superior Court judge, plays in a sandbox all week long. Twice weekly, she's playing beach volleyball with her buddies in San Diego; Otherwise, she's mediating or arbitrating disputes between companies and scientists. A former prosecutor who served as a judge for eight years, Sullivan, 60, has added to her existing mediation business an international panel of arbitrators and mediators to hand
Mildred Cohn
The Scientist Staff | Oct 5, 2003 | 4 min read
First Person | Mildred Cohn Erica P. Johnson Biochemist Mildred Cohn, 90, is one of the few women whose portrait hangs in the halls of the University of Pennsylvania's John Morgan Building. Retired from research but not from science per se--"I still like to talk science and I read"--Cohn is a small, reserved woman who never let the timing of her birth stand in her way. Her determination got her into college at 14, into Nobel laureate Harold Urey's lab as a student, and later to fellow winne
Robert G. Roeder
The Scientist Staff | Sep 21, 2003 | 4 min read
First Person | Robert G. Roeder Courtesy of The Rockefeller University Robert G. Roeder, raised on a Booneville, Indiana farm, is grateful that his parents were religious. Laboring before and after school and every Saturday, he appreciated the requisite day of rest. Lifting 100-pound feedbags gave Roeder (pronounced RAY-dur) the build to play high-school football and the work ethic to graduate valedictorian. Indeed, hard work and long hours drove his career as a biochemist, teasing apart t
Mark B. McClellan
The Scientist Staff | Sep 7, 2003 | 4 min read
First Person | Mark B. McClellan Courtesy of FDA Mark B. McClellan, the baby-faced, dual-degreed head of the Food and Drug Administration, is rarely the prince when he plays dress-up with his twin 4 1/2-year-old daughters. McClellan, the 40-year-old former Stanford economist and internist, is generally the ogre. Or the dinosaur. He takes his servile status in stride. "Princes are not an integral part of these stories," says McClellan, who was weaned on Texas politics. "There are weddings,