Autobiography of Jeffrey Hall
I spent my formative years in the suburbs of Washington DC, USA. Subsequently, I was a student at Amherst College (Amherst, MA, USA), where I concentrated on studying biology. In conjunction with those activities, I performed some entry-level research under the tutelage of a professional biologist who, I later learned, was a Drosophila geneticist of high reputation — but even during my college stint as a low-level researcher, I had perceived my trainer to be a valuable mentor. This experience influenced me to enter graduate school at a place where I could further my genetic education and training, leading to my earning a PhD in Genetics from the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA in 1971. My thesis research mostly involved hard-core Drosophila genetics, augmented by my gaining some modest experience involving the organism’s biology. In a sense, that component of my graduate-student experience served as a springboard for me to seek post-doctoral training in “bio-genetics”.
This next career stage transpired at the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA, USA), where I investigated Drosophila neurobiology and behavior, taking a genetic approach. As of early 1974, I moved from my post-doc location to become a faculty member at Brandeis University (Waltham, MA, USA) and there I continued to investigate in the arena of Drosophila behavior — and neuro-genetics. Initially, my laboratory at Brandeis concentrated on reproductive biology on the one hand, and neurochemical variants on the other. An element of the fruit-fly’s courtship behavior was revealed by our lab to include a rhythmic component. This discovery prompted me and colleagues to begin investigating genetic variants manifesting various kinds of biological-rhythm abnormalities.
As the 1980s (and subsequent) decades unfolded, this research homed-in upon daily (“circadian”) rhythms in Drosophila and principally involved the animal’s behavior (daily cycles of locomotion versus rest). The approach to studying such phenomena remained genetic, substantially enhanced by infusing the principles and practices of molecular genetics. The latter investigations were performed via a collaboration between the Hall lab and that of Michael Rosbash (also at Brandeis University). Accomplishments effected during the course of this collaborative research included molecular identification of a previously known “clock gene”, genetic and molecular identification of novel such factors, elucidation of ways that the products of such genes act and interact to comprise a “core” circadian-clock, and analysis of the neural substrates underlying rhythmic behaviour.
23 September 2013 Hong Kong