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Go East, Botstein: Back to Undergrads for Stanford Guru

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David Botstein, a seminal figure in the development of microarrays, is packing up his Silicon Valley home and returning to his East Coast roots.

Botstein will head the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University starting next summer. The institute has a mandate to develop novel approaches to the study of biology in a post-genomic era and to derive an understanding of how biological systems organize and integrate complex processes.

Botstein, who is chairman of the genetics department of Stanford University’s school of medicine, will begin his duties in Princeton on July 1, 2003, two months after the institute dedicates the $45 million, 90,000-square foot building that will house it.

“This is an opportunity in an area that requires a lot of attention — undergraduate science teaching,” Botstein says. He last taught undergrads 20 years ago at MIT, before leaving to work for two years at Genentech and then moving to the splendors of Stanford.

“The rate-limiting step in modern genomics is in understanding the data that you collect,” he says. “Biology has become an information science, it’s way more quantitative. It has become pretty clear to me that the place to start changing how biology is taught is in undergraduate school. I’m voting with my feet as to what I can do in the next decade or so that is left to me in my working life to make a difference.”

Microarrays will be an important tool in the new curriculum he hopes to create.

“In many ways, [microarrays] are a poster child, if you like, for the genomics revolution,” he says. “I think they are only the first of many tools that will allow you to interrogate the genome over its entire length. They are, and have been, the basis for the first truly comprehensive look at organisms at work and I think there will be many more.”

Botstein helped set in motion the genomics revolution with a 1980 paper he co-authored, proposing a method for mapping genes that laid the groundwork for the Human Genome Project. Later, he helped guide the project as part of its advisory council, while leading the mapping and sequencing of the yeast genome in 1996.

This announcement may also signal the ending of a close research collaboration with cDNA microarray developer Patrick Brown, also of Stanford, who was Gilbert to Botstein’s Sullivan. The two produced no less than 44 published papers since 1995, 11 based on microarrays.

— Mo Krochmal

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