Inder Verma

Born: November 28, 1947 | Sangrur, IN

Inder Verma begins his oral history interview by discussing how he came to leave the Weizmann Institute of Science and join David Baltimore's laboratory at MIT . Verma discusses his early research on reverse transcriptase and RNA, establishing himself with his co-workers, and his impressions of Baltimore. Verma provides an alternate view to some of the political turmoil that Charles N. Cole discusses in his interview because as a foreign student, Verma had a different opinion of the Vietnam War and the anti-war demonstrations. Verma concludes his interview with some thoughts about his research and its impact on cancer research. Joint interview with Charles N. Cole.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0198B
No. of pages: 42

Interview Sessions

Sondra Schlesinger
23 August 1995
St. Louis, Missouri and Salk Institute, San Diego, California

Abstract of Interview

Inder Verma begins his interview by discussing how he came to join David Baltimore's Laboratory. Verma, who was at the Weizmann Institute of Science, was convinced to move to MIT and join Baltimore's Lab by Bob Weinberg. When Verma first arrived, Baltimore was away teaching in Taiwan. Verma discusses his early research on reverse transcriptase and RNA, and his attempts to establish himself with his co-workers in the lab. Verma discusses his interaction with Baltimore and his impressions of Baltimore's skills as a scientist and lecturer. Verma provides an alternate view to some of the political turmoil that Charles N. Cole discusses in his interview. As a foreign student, Verma had a different opinion of the Vietnam War and the anti-war demonstrations. Verma concludes his interview with some thoughts about his research and its impact on cancer research. Joint interview with Charles N. Cole. Charles N. Cole begins his interview by discussing the reasons behind his decision to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Cole's interest in viruses led him to switch from Harvey F. Lodish's Laboratory to the laboratory of David Baltimore. His research involved the polio virus and the role of defective interfering particles. While at Baltimore's lab, reverse transcriptase was discovered. Cole discusses the effect that this discovery had on his polio research. After completing his PhD , Cole decided not to pursue polio research. His time at MIT coincided with rising political activism. Cole discusses his anti-war activities, his arrest for disorderly conduct, the resulting trials, and his decision to live communally. Cole concludes the interview with some thoughts about working with David Baltimore and his skill as a writer and lecturer.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1966 Lucknow University MSc Biochemistry
1971 The Weizmann Institute of Science PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1971 to 1974
Post-Doctoral Fellow

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

1974 to 1979
Assistant Professor
1979 to 1983
Associate Professor
1983 to 1985
Senior Member, Molecular Biology and Virology Laboratory
1985 to 1995
Professor, Molecular Biology and Virology Laboratory
1995
Professor, Laboratory of Genetics

University of California, San Diego

1979 to 1983
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Biology
1983
Adjunct Professor, Department of Biology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1964 to 1966

First in Order of Merit in M Sc

1967 to 1970

Reverend Solomon B. Caulker Memorial Fellowship

1970 to 1973

Fellow, Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research

1985

Medal for Outstanding Scientist of North American Scientists of Indian Origin

1987

Merit Award, National Institutes of Health

1988

Outstanding Investigator Award, National Institutes of Health

1990

Professor of Molecular Biology, American Cancer Society

1993

Award, Thrombosis Research Institute, London

1995

Charaka Award, The Association of Indians in America

1995

Member, The Third World Academy of Sciences

1997

Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology

1997

Foreign Fellow, The National Academy of Sciences, India

1997

Member, The National Academy of Sciences (USA)

1998

Associate Member, European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)

1999

Member, Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)

2000

Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Table of Contents

Charles N. Cole Interview
1

Decision to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Influence of Herman Lichtstein. Moving from Harvey F. Lodish's lab to David Baltimore's Laboratory. Defective interfering (DI) particles of the polio virus. David Baltimore's Lab in 1969. Alice Huang. Vesticular Stomatitis Virus (VSV). Mike Jacobson.

Polio Research
3

Major discussions in the lab. Discovering how defective particles play a role. Influence of David Baltimore. Reverse transcriptase. nderstanding the strategy of the viral genome. VSV enzyme discovery. Inder Verma's work. cDNAs. Effect of reverse transcriptase on polio work. Polyadenlated message.

Political Activities
11

Living with Elizabeth Cole. Student Action Coordinating Committee and MIT weapons labs. Process of radicalization and participation in demonstrations. Black Panther Party, Chicago Seven, and Yippies. Vietnam War and President Richard M. Nixon. Altercation and arrest for disorderly conduct. Jon Kabat. The Grateful Dead. Kent State shootings and shut down of lab. Trials. Salvadore E. Luria's and David Baltimore's testimony. West Newton, Massachusetts commune.

Completing the Ph.D.
17

Work with DI particles. Competition amongst projects. Work after MIT. Switch away from polio research. David Baltimore's skill as a lecturer and writer. Sol Spiegelmann.

Inder Verma Interview
22

Weizmann Institute of Science. Bob Weinberg. Acceptance into David Baltimore's Lab. Nobel Prize. Martha Stampfer and the Association for Women in Science. Reverse transcription. Globin RNA. Sharing authorship with David Baltimore. Haim Aviv.

Research at MIT
26

Atmosphere at MIT. Patenting in biology. David Baltimore's and others' work in the lab. Retrovirus group. Salk Institute. Peter Vogt's lab and chicken cells. Ts mutants. Cancer Center. Moving to the Salk Institute in 1974.

Reflections on Time in David Baltimore's Laboratory
30

Nature of interactions with Baltimore. Influence of Hung Fan and Bob Weinberg. Thoughts on the Vietnam War. Reflections on reverse transcriptase. Cancer research.

Notes
35
Index
36

About the Interviewer

Sondra Schlesinger

Sondra Schlesinger is professor of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine. She received her PhD in biological chemistry from the University of Michigan and spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Boris Magasanik at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she worked on enzyme induction and regulation in bacteria. She joined the faculty at Washington University in 1964, where initially she continued her research in the field of microbial genetics and physiology. In the early 1970s, she began her research work on the structure and replication of animal RNA viruses, which continues to this day. Dr. Schlesinger has over one hundred publications spanning these areas of microbiology. She was president of the American Society for Virology in 1992–1993, at which time she began her present interest and work in the history of virology.