The University of Texas at Austin
  • Nobel Prize winner discovers his research career

    By Tim Green
    Published: Sept. 19, 2007

    James Watson, in opening his Paul D. Gottleib lecture, told the audience he should have seen Austin much sooner.

    The 79-year-old Nobel Laureate said he had learned he might get a job in Austin in the early 1950s. Instead, he went to Cambridge, England where he partnered with Francis Crick to discover the double helix structure of DNA.

    Watson might not have been in Austin before he gave his Sept. 11 speech, but there was just one degree of separation between him and The University of Texas at Austin.

    He received his Ph.D. at Indiana University, where one of his mentors was Hermann J. Muller, who had won a Nobel Prize for work he did at The University of Texas in 1927.

    Speaking in the Texas Union Ballroom, Watson drew a large crowd of faculty and students. The lecture series is named in honor of the late Dr. Paul D. Gottlieb, an outstanding professor of molecular genetics and microbiology and director of the School of Biological Sciences, who died in 2003.

    Watson’s talk drew from his new book, “Avoid Boring People,” which has a Sept. 25 publication date.

    He listed some of the rules he has formulated from his days as a boy in Chicago to his years as scientist and leader of science projects such as the Human Genome Project.

    Nearing his ninth decade, Watson retains the gangliness of the 25-year-old who helped of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century.

    As he listed his rules for different stages of life, Watson received the biggest audience responses when he got to the university stage.

    He declared that six or seven years of graduate education is too much. It should be, he said, four years.

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