Albert Lasker Award
for Special Achievement in Medical Science
People sometimes ask what motivates me as a scientist.
There are, of course, complicated psychological explanations, but for me one of the strongest motivations has been my lifelong love affair with the microscope.
My parents bought me a microscope when I was 14, not one of the toys I had struggled with up to that time, but a genuine research instrument with crystal sharp images and the highest available magnification.
I spent hours with that microscope throughout my teens and while I was an undergraduate at Yale. Finally in graduate school, I needed a specially designed microscope for my thesis project. Since no commercial instrument of that type was available, I cannibalized parts of my own microscope, and with the help of an obliging and talented uncle, who was also an engineer, built what was required.
My love of microscopes and the wonderful things they reveal has never waned.
In my first independent position at the University of Minnesota, I was lucky enough to experience the major expansion of NIH funding in the 1950s. I could hardly believe it when I was asked to submit an application for an electron microscopeand the application was immediately approved, providing my laboratory with only the second electron microscope at the University.
Later as a faculty member at Yale and more recently at the Carnegie Institution, I have been fortunate to have access to each of the newer types of microscope as they became available.
Our view of the cell and my own investigations keep changing, as new microscopes let us probe deeper and deeper into the molecular processes that go on in the nucleus and the cytoplasm of the cell.
The microscope still holds center stage for me. In its newer manifestations it is a far cry from the one I knew as a boy. But each time I sit down to the microscope, I still experience a sense of excitement and expectation.