April 2011

An interview with Jason Sello

ASBMB: What advice would you give to young persons from under-represented backgrounds who want to pursue a career in science similar to yours?
Sello: I would advise young people from under-represented backgrounds not to view their gender, race or ethnicity as an impediment. Science is not always a meritocracy. However, in this business, ideas are commodities and publications are the currency. It is critically important to seek out good mentors, empathetic advisers, and a network of supportive peers.

ASBMB: What are your hobbies?
Sello: Science is both my profession and my avocation, but I do enjoy playing and listening to music (especially jazz).

"I would advise young people from under-represented backgrounds not to view their gender, race or ethnicity as an impediment."

ASBMB: What was the last book you read?
Sello: The last book that I read was “Duke Ellington’s America” by Harvey Cohen. I am very interested in biographies and autobiographies. The lives of jazz musicians, like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis are especially inspirational, because they point the way towards sustaining creativity and productivity over a lifetime.

ASBMB: Do you have any heroes, heroines, or role models? If so, describe how they have influenced you?
Sello: My parents were my earliest and most important role models and influences. I consider my scientific career to be the product of good mentoring. At each stage, I encountered great scientists and wonderful people that provided me with critical guidance and support. My first research adviser, Joseph McCray, taught me the fundamentals of scientific research and showed me the significance of mentoring. My Ph.D. adviser, Stuart Schreiber, taught me how to think big and how to pursue research topics across scientific interfaces. My post-doctoral advisor, Christopher T. Walsh, showed me how much can gained from reading extensively and thinking broadly. Chris also taught me a great deal about setting up a successful research program and about communicating science. My post-doc advisor, Mark Buttner, has more fun doing science than anyone that I know. He taught me that scientific research is greatly enhanced by spirited engagement with others.

Two other scientists who I consider to be heroes are Arnold Demain and David Hopwood. Arnold Demain is one of the scientists who catalyzed the idea that industrial microbiology is a science. In addition to a phenomenal scientific career in biotechnology, he has been a model mentor to me and many other microbiologists. David Hopwood is one of the founding fathers of research on Streptomyces bacteria. He and members of research group literally wrote the book on Streptomyces genetics. David’s contributions to our understanding of Streptomyces bacteria and their ability to produce antibiotics are simply too numerous to count. David’s curiosity, generosity, and commitment to research on Streptomyces bacteria are a constant source of inspiration.

ASBMB: What is it that keeps you working hard and studying science every day?
Sello: My curiosity about the natural world and fervent belief that science can be used to solve many of the world’s problems keep me motivated.

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