Barbara McClintock at CSHL
Lots of my memories of Barbara are put in a chapter I wrote for Barbara McClintock's 90th birthday book. The most memorable time was when we ran into Barbara McClintock and I came away with the feeling that I met the smartest person. I presented to Barbara the idea that inheritance of the Watson vs. Crick chain of the parental chromosome by the progeny cell may use the daughter cells to differ from each other in the mating type by mat1 switching. I wanted to discuss with her how to test the strand-regulation model for mating type switching in fission yeast. And Barbara McClintock was the only one who saw it right away and she asked the best questions. She said, "Fool around with the mat1 locus rearrangements then you can get the answer." And I said, "That is exactly what I was doing, testing switching of mat1 loci in an inverted duplication in a genetically engineered strain. She said, "You will see that the experiment will work. It will be good for the lab, good for science and good for you." It was really good to hear from her. When experiments worked, she said, "I told you this will work." She was very pleased in that DNA chain inheritance is the cause of development asymmetry in fission yeast cell type switching. The same discussion I had with Jim Watson about how to test the DNA strand segregation model for explaining cell lineage of fission yeast. Jim is not the kind of guy you sit down with and discus longwinded ideas. But in this case, I figured I could use his help, since this was about DNA strands, something he must have thought about it in his past. At least, I thought, it will bring him back to his old thoughts and I told him, "DNA strands look like the reasons for sister cell asymmetry as Watson is different from the Crick strand and he listened intently, "If it works, you will be in." I never understood what he meant by "in". He was always on my case and wanted to know if the result can be obtained before the symposium. Once he liked something, he's on your case. I couldn't get the result in time for the symposium. But the result was spectacular; in mat1 inverted duplicated strains both daughters switched and became developmentally similar to each other. Bruce Stillman was my roommate and we lived in the same house together. I remember when he first met Grace, and Grace had been very good friends with my wife. We lived very close to Jim Hicks. It was a cubby hole for a lot of scientists who hung out there. Rather than immediate colleagues, you worked with post docs. They had quick hands and were quick to get the job done. There are lots of people who have benefited, including me, from the yeast courses. Teachers, Gerry Fink and Fred Sherman, were just nonstop, energetic, and Hicks and so forth. Second they brought lots of speakers who were on the cutting edge of science and you got to interact with those people and engage them. They were easier to talk to in the first place and we didn't get much resistance from those people and that was helpful morale-wise. There was never a reason to stop or look otherwise. So eventually we were able to discover many important principles about general biology. It was wonderful for all of us.
Last edited by Marisa Macari : 12-07-2005 at 11:50 AM.