Project Goals

Conversations in Genetics was initiated in 1997 by Rochelle Easton Esposito, under the auspices of the the Genetics Society of America, to record the thoughts and feelings of prominent scientists as they describe their research accomplishments and recall the paths taken during various phases of their lives that led to their work.
The key goals of the project are:

to preserve the history of the field for future generations
to enrich the education of scholars of genetics on how important concepts originated
to promote full integration and use our historical heritage to advance current work

The interviews conducted by distinguished colleagues provide thoughtful and penetrating exchange about how specific ideas evolved. They capture the roles of serendipity, synchronicity of thought, technological advances, individual intuition and human creativity in the crystallization of critical insights.
The influence of pivotal individuals who created stimulating environments, and the historical context in which classic experiments were undertaken is described with humor, appreciation and wistful reflection.

Project History

The project was first proposed to the GSA Board of Directors in 1995 by then GSA President-Elect Rochelle Easton Esposito. The idea was conceived during a prior visit to the University of Washington Genetics Department, and inspired by lively discussions with students and postdocs who were interested in the early days of the Seattle genetics group while she was a PhD student there. The visit highlighted several key points. Research in biology was in the midst of a remarkable and historic revolution, due in large part to advances in genetics over the past several decades. There were many anecdotal stories about the origin of specific ideas in genetics and the researchers involved in the spectacular growth of the field, that were not well documented and would probably be lost over time. A rare and precious resource in understanding these developments was available as many of the pioneers and major contributors to these exciting advances were still present to tell their stories. Had the technology been around wouldn't it be wonderful to now have in our possession video recordings of Mendel, Morgan, Bridges, Beadle and many others talking in their own animated fashion about how their ideas originated?

Pilot Interview and Project Evolution

To demonstrate the merit of the proposal, in 1997, Leland Hartwell, a long-time friend and colleague and strong advocate of the project, agreed to do a pilot interview. The GSA Board allocated funds for the pilot, and Aaron Stadler, a professional cameraman for KING and KIRO TV in Seattle, was hired for film production. After viewing the edited Hartwell interview in 1998, the GSA Board enthusiastically affirmed the proposal's merit and provided financial support to implement the project under the direction and editorship of Rochelle Easton Esposito. A small group of advisors including Tom Kaufman, Elliot Meyerowitz, David Stadler, Iris Sandler and Elaine Strass joined the effort a year later. In 2003, the American Society of Human Genetics began its participation in the project and in 2004 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press started publicizing the series, including the DVDs in their offerings. The GSA's financial support for the project ended in 2008. Since then, Conversations in Genetics has been pursued independently by R. E. Esposito, funded by private donations. In 2014, Dean Flanders, president of the non-profit Swiss National Grid Association (who streamed and published the videos Online), and the GSA kindly agreed to accept tax-deductible contributions to facilitate continuation of these historic interviews.

For more information about this project see: Conversations in Genetics

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