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Interview with Dr. Alan Colman

What attracted you to a career in biology?
  My initial interest in biology began with curiosity about the black deposits found on tree trunks in Manchester UK in the 1950s. I deduced that this was a biological secretion from the tree bark. In fact, it was coal soot emitted from the nearby factories. Nevertheless this rather unwelcome effluent led others to gather experimental support of Darwin's evolutionary findings in the unlikely forms of the peppered moth (brown all over in the industrial North) and the Stockport, Manchester, gasworks spider (black all over instead of striped).


Who are your scientific heroes?
  Newton, Mendel, Crick, Jacob, Monod.


Which scientist has made the biggest impact in your field?
  In stem cells, probably Martin Evans for his development of mouse ES cells; in cloning, my supervisor John Gurdon for his pioneering work on frog nuclear transfer.


What paper had the most influence on you?
  A 1961 Journal of Molecular Biology paper by Jacob and Monod on gene regulation in bacteria-for the sheer elegance of the writing and the experimental strategy used.


What's the best advice you ever had?
  Not to be a medical doctor.


What's the worst advice you ever had?
  That in setting up collaborations, academics would trust my intentions once I had moved into industry (alternatively, buying a ticket to see Liverpool FC).


What was your biggest thrill in science?
  Being the first to see specific transcription in vivo from injected DNA (during thesis work).


What are the main issues confronting stem cell researchers?
  For ES cells,the difficulties in ensuring differentiation along a specific pathway; for somatic stem cells, being sure of what cell you are dealing with).


How should we deal with ethical/moral issues associated with stem cell research?
  By engaging with the broader community in discussion as often as possible.


What are the main attractions of working in Singapore?
  Enthusiasm, infrastructure, commitment but not Tiger beer.


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Featured Researcher Prof. Lee Eng Hin

Featured Researcher Dr. Arif Bongso

Featured Researcher Dr. Alan Colman

Featured Researcher Dr. Larry Stanton





Dr. Alan Colman



 

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