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Bruce Nash, Ph.D.

Assistant Director for Science

My first real memory is of me on a hike by the ocean; my second is of me taking a picture of a flower at my house. It seems that I was always out in nature looking at things or just soaking it in. Maybe soaking in it might be more accurate; I loved mud puddles as a kid! That, along with my dad being a science professor and my mom being a teacher, led me naturally to biology and I ended up studying how cells divide and develop into complex things like worms or people using genetics in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans: I first studied genes that control how nerve cells grow to their targets as a graduate student at the University of Toronto and then moved to the University of Oregon to study how cells divide.

The longer I stayed in science, the more my interests switched from doing lab work to teaching. I found that I was most interested and satisfied when helping others learn. I looked for opportunities to lecture, enjoyed teaching lab members “worm” genetics and even became an active volunteer with educational groups, where I was a nature guide, taught school children biology experiments in school gardens, and taught teachers the use of school gardens as a living lab.

Perhaps most telling for me was the day I identified the lesion in the latest mutant I was studying: I had cloned another gene! Shouldn’t I be thrilled? I was happy, but I was much happier showing a third-grade student a bird’s nest on a nature hike and discussing with her why the bird on the nest was mottled brown. At that point I knew: I had to find a way to teach science.
When I looked for a good place to teach biology, I found the DNA Learning Center. It just seemed right when I checked it out, and lucky for me they wanted to hire a “worm person”. I found a great place to teach cutting-edge science.

Now that I have been here for more than ten years, I have been lucky enough to work with a great team as we create new teaching programs on genetics, molecular biology, ecology, and bioinformatics. I’m especially proud that I have helped thousands of students do independent research using RNA interference or DNA sequence to study biodiversity. I have also been able to train educators in the region, around the country, and in far-flung places like China and Singapore.

It’s great—and I still get to go out in the wild to hike, bike, and sail and play with the creatures in nature, or collect invertebrates in mud flats with students.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
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