Some of Professor Willie Brown’s early teaching mentors were also founding faculty—
we talked to Stu Brody, Don Helinski, and Mel Simon about the early days of BioSci:

“The goal was to create a modern biology department, one that was experimental and not focused on merely descriptive biology. This meant an emphasis on discovery in genetics, biochemistry, and cell biology—using data to explore their simpler systems, then making hypotheses and running experiments. Not so much the kind of biology that’s, ‘Hey, look at all these things we found under this rock.’”

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime—to see something grow and have an influence on. UCSD wasn’t the place where it was chipped in the top of the wall of each building: This is physics. This is chemistry. This is biology. It was a place where they’re going to mix all these things so they could interact.”

“That was an important part of the philosophy of Dr. David Bonner (who established the Biology Department at UC San Diego)—to bring people with different points of view together to learn from each other. It was breaking down barriers—between departments, disciplines, even between buildings.”

“Well, there were only two buildings when the biology department moved up from Scripps. There weren’t even any students when I got here. That was the point, to build the school from the graduate students—and they certainly set a high standard that holds today.”

“It’s also worth noting how this notion of bringing together basic science with practical application set the foundation for the medical school, having biology faculty teach med students during their first two years. It was called the ‘Bonner Plan.’ He thought doctors should learn science from scientists.”

“Over my 43 years, I’ve had about 150 people in my lab, and most of those students went on to medical school. That training in biological research was very important for them, and I know the rest of my students went on to do wonderful things in science, too.”

“What am I most in awe of after 60 years? I’m amazed at the cooperation between universities now. People are very willing to share their knowledge, their techniques, even equipment.

“And as for me, I’m in awe of the fact that we were able to grow a school that had 1,200 students into one that has 38,000—and not lose one iota of quality. That is just astounding.”

BioSci’s 60th anniversary continues with the “Deep Look” lecture series, presenting current research, timely topics, and new discoveries in biology. Learn more