- My career in science was launched when I was an undergraduate at Princeton University and reinforced by graduate training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, it was only after I moved to Harvard University as a junior fellow that my affections were captured by a seemingly mundane soil bacterium. What Bacillus subtilis offered was endless fascinating biological problems (alternative sigma factors, sporulation, swarming, biofilm formation, stochastic cell fate switching) embedded in a uniquely powerful genetic system.
- There have been two sharp demarcations in my life in science: the transition from fine arts to chemistry, which happened early in my career, and the move from New York to Stanford University, which initiated an ongoing collaboration with the physicist Harley McAdams. Both had a profound effect on the kinds of questions I posed and the means I used to arrive at answers. The outcome of these experiences, together with the extraordinary scientists I came to know along the way, was and is an abiding passion to fully understand a simple cell in all its complexity and beauty.
- Having been offered the opportunity to contribute one of the episodes of this series of personal history accounts, I have chosen to write about circumstances that led me to the start of the scientific path that I have followed for the past forty odd years. My account deals with a period of approximately six years and with events that I have written about recently (1); although I have been conscientious about avoiding overt self-plagiarism (at least the kind that is detected by computer programs), I also hope to have added some additional perspective.