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The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) Oral History Collection features discussions with influential figures in the field of genomics and the history of institute. Intended for researchers and scholars, each oral history video contains extensive conversation about science and medicine, biographical details and insights into the inner workings of institutions and initiatives.

Georgia Dunston

Georgia M. Dunston, Ph.D., is the founder of Whole Genome Science Foundation, a non-profit to advance knowledge on the science, technology engineering and mathematics of the human genome. She is also the Founder and Former Director of the National Human Genome Center at Howard University, where she also taught human immunogenetics. In part one of this oral history, Georgia talks about her passion to understand humans from an early age, and how her interest in human genetics led her to study biology at Tuskegee University and human genetics at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She then discusses her time in the Visiting Investigator’s Program at NHGRI and how that led to collaborating with Francis Collins on publishing work on the genetics of Type 2 Diabetes in West Africa. 

Deanna Church

Deanna Church, Ph.D., is the Senior Director for Mammalian Applications at Inscripta, Inc. She was previously the Senior Director of Applications at 10X Genomics, and the Senior Director of Genomics and Content at Personalis, Inc. In this oral history, Deanna recounts her time studying genomics in John Wasmuth’s lab at the University of California, Irvine and her time as a staff scientist for the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) from 2009-2013. At NCBI she coordinated the mouse genome resources and headed NCBI’s team in the Genome Reference Consortium, an international group focusing on refining data on the human genome.

Mark Guyer and Jane Peterson

Mark Guyer, Ph.D. started his career as a Program Director for the Human Genome Project in 1988. He was then one of the founders of NHGRI, a leader in the Extramural Research Program and the NHGRI Deputy Director before his retirement in 2014. Jane Peterson, Ph.D. was the Associate Director of the NHGRI Extramural Research Program until her retirement in 2014. The two discuss the early development of the Human Genome Project and some of the challenges in HGP early on.


Karen Rothenberg

Karen H. Rothenberg, J.D., M.P.A., is a professor at the Johns Hopkins Institute of Bioethics and the Marjorie Cook Professor of Law at University of Maryland. She is currently a guest researcher for NHGRI's Bioethics Core and was previously the Senior Advisor to the Director on Genomics & Society. In this fascinating oral history, Karen Rothenberg recalls how she became passionate about health law and women’s health, and her experience taking sabbatical from University of Maryland School of Law to be a Health Law and Policy Consultant for the National Institute for Child Health & Human Development. She also recounts how she began awareness about prenatal genetic testing with Elizabeth Thompson, and shares her favorite stories about Francis Collins.


Richard Myers

Richard Myers, Ph.D, is the President and Science Director of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville Alabama, where he provides strategic oversight for the research enterprise at the institute including sustaining a large active laboratory. In this oral history, Rick Myers recounts his time at Stanford University where he became the chair of the department of genetics in 1993 and helped the Stanford Human Genome Center contribute to the sequencing in the Human Genome Project. Rick also discusses his involvement in the HapMap Project, ENCODE, and the importance of both GWAS and genes-in-environment initiatives.


Ari Patrinos

Ari Patrinos, Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress, and a professor of biological, chemical and mechanical engineering at NYU. He is considered to be a leading authority on structural biology, genomics, global environmental change, and nuclear medicine. This oral history follows his time as Director of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), where he worked on the Human Genome Project and initialed the International Panel on Climate Change and the Global Change Research Program. In this interview Ari discusses how the DOE ended up working with NIH on the Human Genome Project, his research, and his relationships with Francis Collins, Craig Venter and Harold Varmus.

Louise Slaughter

Louise Slaughter was an American politician who served as a United States Representative for the 25th Congressional District of New York from 1987 until her death in March 2018. She had a degree in microbiology and a master's degree in public health from the University of Kentucky. She served as Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee from 2007 until 2011 and as ranking minority member of the Committee from 2005 to 2007, and from 2011 until her death. Slaughter was the lead House sponsor of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which became law in 2008. In this captivating oral history, Louise Slaughter discusses the struggles in setting up the Office of Women's Health in the 1990's that put money aside for research on ovarian cancer, cervical cancer and many diseases that affected women. The success of this led her to be the head of the GINA bill. Slaughter then discusses the difficulties passing a bill about genetics to members of Congress who were either not interested or did not understand what this new science was. Slaughter also gives personal accounts working with Francis Collins, Craig Venter, Kathy Hudson and Eric Green.

David Schlessinger

David Schlessinger, Ph.D., is the Senior Investigator in the Laboratory of Geneitcs and Genomics at the National Institute on Aging. He studies embryonic and developmental events for the aging for the specialized mammalian cells and concomitant aging-related phenomena. He now has an auxiliary title of NIH distinguished investigator. This oral history follows his love of science that started in childhood to getting his Ph.D at Harvard University and becoming a professor Molecular Microbiology, Genetics, and Microbiology at the Washington University of St. Louis. He discusses how his interest in looking at the units of ribosomal DNA from mammalian cells to human cells led him to working with Maynard Olson for the Human Genome Project.


Jean McEwen

Jean McEwen, J.D., Ph.D., is the former director of the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) Research Program at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). In this oral history, Dr. McEwen describes her interest in the intersection of law and health, the importance of the Haplotype Map Project (HapMap) and lessons learned from years of community consultation. Dr. McEwen offers an invaluable perspective from what was a unique position within NHGRI during and after the Human Genome Project. 


Lynn Jorde

Lynn Jorde, Ph.D. is a professor of Human Genetics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. This oral history follows him from his start in primatology to his involvement in the International HapMap Project, a project aimed at determining common patterns of human genetic variation - all the while elaborating on his near 40 years of work in population genetics.


Michael Gottesman

Michael Gottesman, M.D.'s resume includes the often-unacknowledged position he held from 1992-1993: acting director of the National Center for Human Genome Research (NCHGR). Originally skeptical of the Human Genome Project, his reputation as a cell geneticist with big picture perspective landed him the job. Currently, he is the deputy director for Intramural Research at the National Institutes of Health, as well as chief of the Laboratory of Cell Biology at the National Cancer Institute. In Part I of this oral history, Dr. Gottesman chronicles a tumultuous time at NCHGR (now called the National Human Genome Research Institute) from a multi-faceted perspective: clinician, researcher and administrator. 



Part two of this oral history follows Michael Gottesman, M.D. to his position as deputy director for Intramural Research for the entirety of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Gottesman delves deep into what decision making looks like at the NIH level, what the contributions of significant players have been in the past ten years, as well as what his expectations are for the future of genomic health.


George Church

George Church, Ph.D. had unconventional beginnings, publishing five papers on x-ray crystallography of tRNA - or transfer RNA, a small type of RNA molecule that helps decode the DNA sequence into a protein - while flunking out of graduate school at Duke University. Changing schools, he successfully finished his doctoral work at Harvard University and is now regarded as one of the leading innovators of the Human Genome Project. He currently works on the cutting edge of contemporary genetic investigation as professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Church's oral history is essentially a history of DNA sequencing technology with vital insights into what the future may hold. 


Maximilian Muenke

Max Muenke, M.D. joined the National Human Genome Research Institute's Division of Intramural Research in 1997 as head of the Human Development Section and has been chief of the Medical Genetics Branch since 2000.

Chronicling his career through 2016, this oral history follows Dr. Muenke from his childhood year in a hospital with polio, to his work in pediatrics and genetics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, to his most recent work in identifying the genetic variants that make people more susceptible for developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 


Jeffery Schloss

Jeff Schloss, Ph.D. is the founding director of the Division of Genome Sciences of the Extramural Research Program at the National Human Genome Research Institute. He retired in early 2017 after 24 years with the institute. He managed a diverse portfolio of grants involved in developing a range of nucleic acids-related technologies - in particular, DNA sequencing technology and the well-known $1,000 Genome Program.

This oral history follows him from his post-doctoral work in a Yale University microscopy lab studying nucleic acids to meeting NHGRI program director Dr. Jane Peterson at a cell and biology meeting, where she recruited him to come to work at NHGRI. Dr. Schloss compares the research and development efforts of NHGRI and the biotech world, and discusses the consequences of the draft sequence quality standard. 


Elke Jordan

Elke Jordan, Ph.D. was Deputy Director at the National Human Genome Research Institute from 1988-2002, almost the entirety of the Human Genome Project.

Dr. Jordan's invaluable oral history documents significant turning points in the project's story including the strategic establishment of the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) research program, and the rise of Celera, the company that spurred the race to complete the first human genome sequence. 


NHGRI Directors

In 2014 and 2015, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) filmed a panel discussion with former directors James Watson, Ph.D. and Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and current director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D. This invaluable footage animates the roots and growth of NHGRI, as well as the Human Genome Project, from the perspectives of three key figures.

Part I of this footage features all three directors discussing the early days of the institute, from the appointments of Drs. Watson and Collins to the Human Genome Project. 




In 2014 and 2015, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) filmed a panel discussion with former directors James Watson, Ph.D. and Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and current director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D. This invaluable footage animates the roots and growth of NHGRI, as well as the Human Genome Project, from the perspectives of three key figures.

Part II of this footage features Drs. Collins and Green discussing NHGRI's initiatives since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, including the ENCyclopedia Of DNa Elements (ENCODE) Project, the International HapMap Project, and the 1000 Genomes Project. 


Charles Rotimi

For more than two decades, Charles Rotimi, Ph.D., chief of the Metabolic, Cardiovascular and Inflammatory Disease Genomics Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), has studied the causes of complex diseases and health disparities. This oral history traces a path from Dr. Rotimi's early work studying lung and stomach cancer at Ford Motor Company in Cleveland, Ohio, to his work on Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa), an NIH initiative to develop large-scale population studies by African researchers on African populations. Dr. Rotimi's oral history also offers insights into the complexities of community engagement and the importance of international scientific efforts.


David Bentley

David Bentley, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist at Illumina Inc., where he develops new DNA sequencing technology for fast, accurate sequencing of complex genomes.

This oral history follows Dr. Bentley's career, including his research in Nobel Laureate Fred Sanger, Ph.D.'s, lab at Cambridge in 1979, the early rumblings of the Human Genome Project in the mid-1980s, and Phase I of the International HapMap Project in 2005 - an international effort aimed at finding common genes and genetic variations that affect health and disease. 


Howard McLeod

Howard McLeod, Pharm.D., is the founding medical director of the Moffitt Cancer Center's DeBartolo Family Personalized Medicine Institute and a senior member in its Department of Cancer Epidemiology.

This oral history explores Dr. McLeod's early career experiences with genetics and oncology at St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, his reflections on the importance of shared science and data, and the controversies surrounding Bi-Dil, the first race-based pharmaceutical. 


Ewan Birney

Ewan Birney, Ph.D., co-director of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's (EMBL) European Bioinformatics Institute, played a vital role in annotating the genome of human, mouse, chicken and several other organisms, and his work has had a profound impact on our understanding of genomics.

This oral history explores the Human Genome Project from Dr. Birney's perspective as a young scientist and roommate of future director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), James Watson, Ph.D. This video also explores the field of genomics through a bioinformatics lens. 


Maynard Olson

Maynard Olson, Ph.D., professor of Genome Sciences and Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, is a major figure in genomics research, and his research involving large- scale genome analysis - with emphases on both technology development and applications - made him an invaluable participant in the Human Genome Project.

Dr. Olson's oral history explores his early years growing up near the National Institutes of Health, his efforts to map the yeast genome in 1978, and his role as mentor to Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., the current director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). 


Last updated: September 11, 2019