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How I got into RNA translation


Choice in science
Gerald Edelman Scientist
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There is an issue of choice in science, and what is the problem that you pick, and why do you pick it? Well, very often you can't answer that question because a lot depends on serendipity or accident or luck. But I have been reflecting, as a result of this conversation, on the whole issue of what I felt I should do in science. And part of it, as you know, has been to be concerned with what might be called theoretical matters – at least conceptual issues – starting from the theory of antibody diversity, the evolution of multi-gene families, which is related to that problem, to morphogenesis and morphoregulatory theory, and finally to neural Darwinism, to consciousness, to effectively the notion of degeneracy in biological systems; and finally to some extent and reflecting on your field, which we haven't mentioned and I may come back to it, sleep – coming up with a theory of what sleep might be for. And this brings me however to a contrast, because while theory, at least concept, is terribly important in science because of the imaginative component, above all you've got to do observation and experiment. So if you have to give up something, you'd better give up just vain speculation and go... go at an experiment. And that is by way of introducing what I'm doing now, without too much apology, although it's not clear now where what I'm doing will lead.

US biologist Gerald Edelman (1929-2014) successfully constructed a precise model of an antibody, a protein used by the body to neutralise harmful bacteria or viruses and it was this work that won him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1972 jointly with Rodney R Porter. He then turned his attention to neuroscience, focusing on neural Darwinism, an influential theory of brain function.

Listeners: Ralph J. Greenspan

Dr. Greenspan has worked on the genetic and neurobiological basis of behavior in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) almost since the inception of the field, studying with one of its founders, Jeffery Hall, at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where he received his Ph.D. in biology in 1979. He subsequently taught and conducted research at Princeton University and New York University where he ran the W.M. Keck Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, relocating to San Diego in 1997 to become a Senior Fellow in Experimental Neurobiology at The Neurosciences Institute. Dr. Greenspan’s research accomplishments include studies of physiological and behavioral consequences of mutations in a neurotransmitter system affecting one of the brain's principal chemical signals, studies making highly localized genetic alterations in the nervous system to alter behavior, molecular identification of genes causing naturally occurring variation in behavior, and the demonstration that the fly has sleep-like and attention-like behavior similar to that of mammals. Dr. Greenspan has been awarded fellowships from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, the Searle Scholars Program, the McKnight Foundation, the Sloan Foundation and the Klingenstein Foundation. In addition to authoring research papers in journals such as "Science", "Nature", "Cell", "Neuron", and "Current Biology", he is also author of an article on the subject of genes and behavior for "Scientific American" and several books, including "Genetic Neurobiology" with Jeffrey Hall and William Harris, "Flexibility and Constraint in Behavioral Systems" with C.P. Kyriacou, and "Fly Pushing: The Theory and Practice of Drosophila Genetics", which has become a standard work in all fruit fly laboratories.

Tags: choice, science, luck, theory

Duration: 1 minute, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008