Michael W. Young, 2018 Hall of Honor Recipient

Michael W. Young, 2018 Hall of Honor Recipient


As you heard I left in 1975 went to
California and then continued this great circle route and wound up in New York. But I
can remember seeing articles and journals coming out of the department
and thinking gee that was nice when the snow was coming down in New York City. Steve
already mentioned that I’m blessed with having a great number of family members
here. As he pointed out mostly my wife’s family who go back generations in Texas
and particularly in the old country Sarah Eckhardt’s here who I’m sure you all know well, county judge. And her father, who is the great Bob Eckhardt. Congressman from the Houston area. So at any rate I got myself into a great
fit, and I also want to repeat something that Steve said and in addition to
having family here my cousin my sister I’ve got Hugh Forrest here who I had the
privilege of having lunch with a couple of days ago I was delighted when he said
he was going to attend he was 94 years old who was on my thesis committee
signed my thesis so he let me through. I got through it thanks to you. The
university really did change my life have changed it in many ways. I didn’t
decide on a career path until I was a senior and at all I was interested in
biology and chemistry but wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it but
as a senior in the final semester of my senior year I took a course in genetics
from Bert Judd who’s a professor here at the University and he was a fascinating guy
and was working with [unintelligible] doing tremendous studies of genetics he was
trying to use state-of-the-art genetic approaches to try to understand how
genes are packed into chromosomes and there were many mysteries that were
popping out of his studies that were were quite intriguing to me and we heard
earlier about the importance of getting kids into a laboratory early on I was a
little late coming but thanks to work I realized that I could do a summer stint
in a real laboratory and that changed everything I did a summer research in
Berks lab and got hooked on the problems that he was studying and stayed on his
graduate student and it’s been another three and a half years here in Austin
very enjoyable there’s another very important life-changing event that
occurred at that time when I started attending that course there was this
young woman in the class who is very bright asked all the great questions but
what do the answers have worked and that for me when I tried to talk to miss
Laurel my life and trying to introduce myself try to generate some interest
several times in the course would fail every time
later when I was a graduate student at work maybe six or seven months later of
us in the office talking with Burke and fortunately Laurel’s in plan two and
her advisor happened to be Burke and I didn’t know that of course at the time
but here she is coming in the door and I’m there and I get formally introduced
and all of a sudden I’ve got some status so so thanks to Burke
thanks to UT, I met my wife, we’re still together now after all these years
we’re both scientists Burke had a great impact on her as he did on me we both
discovered science through Burke’s great mentorship and we both went to Stanford
together and then traveled on to New York. I want to say a little bit about being
back here seeing many friends and colleagues and wandering around the
campus and being delighted that the bones of the campus are really very much
the same it’s a very familiar feeling I walked over into the new molecular
biology building I say new because it wasn’t here when I was a student that’s
a spectacular home for molecular biology and I noticed walking through the the
doors that they had Herman Muller’s x-ray machine on display on the first
floor and Hermann Muller in the 1920s came to Texas he was recruited from
Columbia where he worked under [unintelligible] with Thomas Mark Hunt Morgan who won the
Nobel Prize for telling us that genes are on chromosomes and many other things
about the way from a chromosomes work using Drosophila that he was the first
American to win a Nobel Prize in medicine Physiology or medicine and
Muller being of an independent sort came to Texas he was probably the most brilliant
as to that that Morgan had and worked for ten years right here on campus and
proved that radiation will cause mutations that radiation is not only
that not only did this of course prove that radiation is an extreme hazard but
it also became a tool for creating genetic variations that could be studied
in great detail and within just a matter of a few years
we knew much more about the way genes are organized and function because of
Muller’s work done over in the old bio building I got to see his old labs just
a couple of days ago which again in that old building haven’t changed that much
but seeing that reminded me of the tremendous history in the natural
sciences that you have here at the University of Texas I remember as a
graduate student walking by that same display of Muller’s x-ray machine and
being inspired that that great work had taken place right here in Austin and in
fact when Muller came his influence was tremendous because you there were
several other members of the department that he joined who he recruited to work
on Drosophila genetics and a former president of the university Theophilus
Painter, Patterson after whom the building
Patterson labs is named. Stone a student of that group, all began to work together on
Drosophila genetics and what that produced here at Austin was one of two
epicenters of genetics in the world there was one at Columbia with Thomas
Hunt Morgan that eventually moved to the California Institute of Technology in
Austin and I was reminded today by Jen that even the journal the the
most important journal of genetics entitled genetics was for a number of
years published right here at the University of Texas at Austin so this is
a cradle of genetic research that has a truly outstanding history the other
point that I’ll just make is motor was here for ten years left went to several
other institutions and it was only in the 1940s when he was recognized by the
Nobel Prize but he was recognized for work that was done here now in my case
I’ve been in New York for 40 years but as you heard the project that I worked
on here as a graduate student was the flower it was the blood
it was the exposure to the question to the problem and to the tools of genetics
and to the specifics of that problem that started very much right here at the
University of Texas so in the same way that Muller went away what was
recognized later I think we should have pleasure in and knowing that you’ve been
recognized twice with the Nobel Prize because my work started here as well so
keep it up, this is a wonderful institution
I enjoyed not only the science the institution but the great breadth of
having a true University in which the sciences – liberal arts the whole
panoply of thinking was on display and available to me and I relished it and I
know that still exists here you’ve got a wonderful institution that I’ll forever
treasure. Thank you.

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