Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lederberg Workshop LiveNotes

I am going to keep posting here notes from the various talks ...
  • A good short introduction by Peggy Hamburg of David Hamburg. Peggy is a scientist but had a funny story about how Lederberg gave her her first job - making cookies. She then introduced David Hamburg and said about him “he had many accomplishments including being my father”
  • Hamburg then gave a nice talk about Lederberg ... some highlights
    • When he was sick earlier this year, he still took time to come over to Hamburg's to discuss Hamburg's book that he was working on ... to give him input
    • Good story about Lederberg's building the department of genetics at Stanford
    • Told story about how Lederberg helped create the "human biology" major at Stanford
    • Emphasized that, despite the impression by many, Lederberg was not so aloof
    • Emphasized that Lederberg was deeply committed to educating the public about science and society and went to Hamburg one day saying he wanted Hamburg to introduce him to people at the Washington Post so he could write a column. And together they convinced the Post to do the column and Lederberg wrote it for many years. Many thought this was below someone with his scientific gifts but he was really committed to it. Note you can see his columns here See his papers here. I hope we would have liked blogging ...
  • Stephen Morse
    • Lederberg very interested in evolution
    • Coined phrase Exobiology
    • Good line of Lederberg's about how infectious disease is "our wits versus their genes and their have been evolving much longer"
    • Lederberg was an early adopter of email and bioinformatics and was a big fan of technology
    • In his office at Rockefeller, Lederberg had all sorts of awards posted in the outside office and then in his inner office he had two things on the wall. A picture of David Hamburg and his ham radio certificate.
  • Discussion
    • Peggy Hamburg said Lederberg used to take her tidepooling at Pescadero Beach
    • Lederberg seemed exceptionally fond of writing notes to people he knew to challenge them about some aspect of their work
    • Stanley Cohen mentioned how Lederberg was very helpful when he started out in the Genetics department at Stanford and when some people were questioning his desire to focus on plasmids
    • Julian Davies mentioned a story about giving his first "outside" talk - at Stanford - and being very nervous to go there with all the gurus of the field there. And Paul Berg warned him that Lederberg might appear to be sleeping during his talk but that he would ask some very challenging questions at the end. And Lederberg in fact did this - but that Julian had discussed the issue a bit during his talk. And with some trepidation, Julian said "Well, you may not have been listening ..." And though he was afraid of offending Lederberg, it did not.
  • Afternoon #1 - A really good session on beneficial microbes and microbial communities
    • Jill Banfield gave an exciting overview of her work on the Acid Mine Drainage ecosystem including examples of genome sequencing, proteomics, etc. But the most interesting part was a discussion of their work on microbe-virus interactions including looking at CRISPR elements. CRISPRs have been proposed (by Mojica et al, Makarova et al and some others) to be in essence a bacterial adaptive immune system to resist phage.
    • Jean-Michel Ane discussed plant-root symbioses including some very interesting stuff on how different symbionts interact with the same or overlapping host pathways.
    • Margaret McFall-Ngai discussed the Vibrio - Squid light organ symbiosis and among many things pointed out some detail about the signalling pathways and the develomental changes that occur in the squid
    • David Relman gave an overview of human microbiome studies and did a good job of pointing out not only what we know, but what we do not know.

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