by Jenny Gerow
Basic research, collegiality on
By Fariss Samarrai
universities are the most powerful force in America, declared
David Baltimore, Nobel laureate and president of the California
Institute of Technology. Industry develops technology and
makes money, but the ideas and understanding of important societal
challenges start at the research universities.
one of the most influential biologists of his generation, spoke
Feb. 21 to students and faculty at the McLeod Hall Auditorium.
Awarded the Nobel Prize at the age of 37 for his work in virology,
he has also had a profound influence upon national science policy
on such issues as recombinant DNA research and the AIDS epidemic.
His accomplishments include expertise in multiple roles, including
researcher, educator, administrator and public advocate for science
science leads to new technologies, and it is interdisciplinary
interaction, the fusion of science and technology, that defines
research universities, Baltimore said. The most difficult
scientific and technological challenges will be solved only through
the combined skills of everybody at our research universities.
People must talk across barriers, and faculty, administrators,
students and postdocs must create new ways to promote interaction
not elite to cure disease, Baltimore continued. Its
honorable. But the most important and difficult problems will
be solved at the elite institutions. The best institutions
will succeed by not trying to be all things to all people,
but rather by staying smaller and focused on science and technology.
As research universities grow, we must put in place mechanisms
that allow for close interaction, he said.
a professor at MIT in the early 1970s, Baltimores investigations
focused on questions about the relationship between DNA and RNA
in a cells internal functions specifically, on how
cancer-causing RNA viruses manage to infect a healthy cell. One
result of this research was the identification of the enzyme,
reverse transcriptase. Baltimore shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in
physiology or medicine for this discovery, which has greatly expanded
scientists understanding of retroviruses like HIV.
for Contemporary Thought sponsored Baltimores talk as
part of its year-long series of events, Science and Society,
focusing on the broad implications of scientific research. The
and the Institute for Practical
Ethics coordinate the events. The senate initiated the multidisciplinary
forum, which is funded by the College of Arts & Sciences,
the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics and the schools of Law,