James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

February 14, 2008

Retrospective CSHL (part 3)

Filed under: University Visits — Tags: , , — James @ 1:42 pm

Saturday started out with another couple of interviews. Even with 20-30 minute interviews and no time built into the schedule for traveling between labs, they weren’t able to fit them all into one day. 


I should also mention that there are no room numbers at CSHL. Once I found the correct building I just stuck my head into a room and said, “Sorry to bother you, I’m looking for Dr. X’s office.” (I didn’t actually interview with anyone named Dr. X, but it would have been cool if I had.) This was actually good marketing for the organization, since every response I got to doing this was both polite and enthusiastic.


We had an enjoyable lunch where all the grad students and faculty ended up in one room and the interviewees in another. Not great for making a good impression, but it was fun to get to know the other people I was interviewing with better. And one of the pizza’s provided was covered in MEAT. Berkeley was a very vegetarian friendly campus, sometimes frustratingly so.


After lunch we got the tourist tour of CSHL. The first building was constructed as Origin of the Species was becoming popular. So people were starting to get very excited about the study of evolution and inheritance. But how do you study those things? They didn’t know anything about DNA. So one of the early things they studied was the way that embryos developed. And the easiest systems to study that in are fish, since it’s possible to observe the embryos in fish eggs develop without having to crack through a shell or dissect thousands of pregnant mice. Later as Mendel’s work was rediscovered by biologists CSHL moved on to breeding experiments, and then when the first genetic techniques were developed the exciting research moved to viruses, with the smallest genomes of any organism. We saw a gazebo on the waterfront with a sculpture of a virus on the roof. I’m told couples from the lab often get married under the virus…


Scary though of the day:

“The average person alive today is as likely to die in an airplane crash as a meteor impact.” 

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