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Inder Verma

  • Born: November 28, 1947, Sangrur, Punjab, India

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0198B
Interview Date: August 23, 1995
Location: Salk Institute, San Diego, California
Interviewer: Sondra Schlesinger
No. of pages: 42

  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 Ph.D., 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.


1966 M.Sc., Biochemistry, Lucknow University
1971 Ph.D., Biochemistry, The Weizmann Insitute of Science

  Professional Experience

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1971 - 1974

Post-Doctoral Fellow

The Salk Institute

1974 - 1979 Assistant Professor

The Salk Institute

1979 - 1983 Associate Professor

The Salk Institute

1983 - 1985 Senior Member, Molecular Biology and Virology Laboratory

The Salk Institute

1985 - 1995 Professor, Molecular Biology and Virology Laboratory

The Salk Institute

1995 Professor, Laboratory of Genetics

University of California, San Diego

1979 - 1983 Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Biology

University of California, San Diego

1983 Adjunct Professor, Department of Biology


1964 First in Order of Merit in M.Sc.
1967 Reverend Solomon B. Caulker Memorial Fellowship
1970 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

Title and Description Page

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 Ph.D. 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.

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