William S. Talbot

Born: December 2, 1966 | Portsmouth, VA, US

William S. Talbot grew up in Gainesville, Florida. Although he did not appreciate it at the time, growing up in a university town provided him with access to several influential teachers. For example, a science project brought him into the lab of Edward Wakeland to work on the nature and extent of variation in wild mouse populations. Talbot continued working with Wakeland as an undergraduate at University of Florida, Gainesville. He moved to graduate studies at Stanford University, working with David S. Hogness on the hormonal control of metamorphosis in Drosophila. After a postdoc, he accepted a position at the Skirball Institute, where he researched the genes involved in tissue development of zebrafish. Soon, Talbot returned to Stanford, where he works in vertebrate developmental biology. 

Access This Interview

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0513
No. of pages: 106
Minutes: 400

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
10-12 January 2005
Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

Abstract of Interview

William S. Talbot grew up in Gainesville, Florida, enjoying nature, playing outside, and playing sports (for a time, an offensive guard and a nose tackle in football). His father was an oral surgeon who did a stint in the US Navy; his mother received a master's degree in education and, later in life, worked in property management. Although he did not appreciate it at the time, growing up in a university town provided Talbot with what he considered a great education and access to several influential teachers. In an advanced biology course Talbot had the opportunity to develop his own science fair project, which brought him into the lab of Edward Wakeland to work on the nature and extent of variation in wild mouse populations. Talbot decided to continue working with Wakeland as an undergraduate at the University of Florida, Gainesville, where he also broadened his intellectual horizons through studies in classes on the history of science. After completing his degree at Gainesville, he moved on to graduate studies at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, working with David S. Hogness in developmental genetics on the hormonal control of metamorphosis in Drosophila, and then on to a postdoctoral position with Charles B. Kimmel at the University of Oregon mapping the zebrafish genome and characterizing mutations. From Oregon he returned to the east coast, accepting a position at the Skirball Institute at New York University, where he researched the genes involved in early tissue development of zebrafish and began collaborating with Alexander F. Schier. Soon after, though, Talbot decided to return to Stanford, working in vertebrate developmental biology, that is, at the genes involved in axis formation, tissue differentiation, and myelin formation. At the end of the interview, Talbot discusses patents; his reasons for becoming a principal investigator; collaboration and competition in science; setting the national scientific agenda; the privatization of scientific research; and his transition to studying myelin formation. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1987 University of Florida BS Microbiology
1993 Stanford University PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

University of Oregon

1993 to 1996
Postdoctorate, laboratory of Charles B. Kimmel, Institute of Neuroscience

New York University School of Medicine

1996 to 1999
Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics Program, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine

Stanford University School of Medicine

1999 to 2002
Assistant Professor, Department of Developmental Biology
2002 to 2006
Associate Professor, Department of Developmental Biology
2006 to 2017
Professor, Department of Developmental Biology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1987

BS with High Honors, University of Florida

1987 to 1990

National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship

1990 to 1993

National Institutes of Health Training Grant, Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University

1993 to 1996

Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund Postdoctoral Fellowship

1997

NYU Whitehead Fellowship for Junior Faculty

1998 to 2002

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences Award

2002 to 2004

Rita Allen Foundation Scholars Award

Table of Contents

Childhood, Early Research, and College
1

Growing up in Gainesville, Florida. Family background. Father. Parental expectations. Mother. Sister. Early schooling. Childhood experiences. Interest in reading. Influential teachers in junior high and high school. Works in Edward Wakeland's laboratory during high school and college. Project on genetic variation in wild mouse populations. Extracurricular activities. Religion. Attends the University of Florida, Gainesville. Wakeland's laboratory management style. Leisure activities in college. History of science classes.

Graduate School, Postdoctoral Years, and the Skirball Institute
27

Role of the scientist in educating the public about science. Graduate school at Stanford University. Works for David S. Hogness in developmental genetics on hormonal control of metamorphosis in Drosophila. Hogness's laboratory management style. Talbot's management style. Postdoctoral fellowship with Charles B. Kimmel at the University of Oregon. Postdoctoral work mapping the zebrafish genome and characterizing mutations. Zebrafish as a model system. Accepts a position at the Skirball Institute at New York University. Collaboration with Alexander F. Schier. Setting up laboratory. Research on the genes involved in early tissue development of zebrafish. Pew Scholars Program in the BiomedicalSciences.

Moving to Stanford
62

Decision to move to Stanford University. Wife and her career. Setting up laboratory at Stanford University. Management style. Current research in vertebrate developmental biology on the genes involved in axis formation, tissue differentiation, and myelin formation. Practical applications of research. Future work on genes involved in myelin formation. Teaching responsibilities. Administrative duties. Grant-writing process. Writing journal articles. Service toprofessional community. Balancing family and career. Leisure activities. Tenure at Stanford University. Funding history.

Science and Society
81

Patents. Conducting good scientific research. Collaboration and competition in science. National scientific agenda. More on the role of the scientist in educating the public about science. Privatization of scientific research. Gender. Increasing the presence of underrepresented groups in science. Transition in research to studying myelin formation.

Index
104

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten