Newsstand Menu

First Watson School students to graduate on April 25, 2004

Innovative Ph.D. program confers degrees after only four years of study

Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Founded with the mission to bestow the Ph.D. degree in biology in an unprecedented four years, the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory will achieve its goal on April 25, 2004 at the Commencement Convocation. At 4 p.m. in Grace Auditorium, Amy A. Caudy, Ira Hall, Patrick J. Paddison, Emiliano Rial Verde, Elizabeth E. Thomas and Niraj Harish Tolia will become the first graduates of the School, completing their Ph.D. in biological sciences in four years or less.

“These are indeed truly outstanding students. Amy, Emiliano, Elizabeth, and Niraj from the first entering class in 1999, and Ira and Patrick, from the second entering class in 2000, have been trailblazers in a new graduate school at one of the world’s oldest biological institutions,” Winship Herr, Dean of the Watson School of Biological Sciences, said.

The Watson School of Biological Sciences was founded in 1999 as a doctoral degree-granting educational program of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The curriculum guides the development of a small number of outstanding Ph.D. candidates into creative and independent scientists. Unlike traditional Ph.D. programs, in which candidates often spend six or more years to obtain a degree, the Watson School is structured to grant the Ph.D. degree after only four years of intensive study.

“By all accounts, the School has been a success. This outcome is owing to the generosity of its benefactors and to the dedication of the faculty, administration, and the outstanding students it successfully recruited,” Herr said. “As one independent measure of the quality of its students, in just its first year, fully half of the six entering students—Amy Caudy, Emiliano Rial Verde, and Elizabeth Thomas—all graduating on April 25, received the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship. And most importantly, as set forth by James Watson, the School has achieved its goal of a four-year degree at its first graduation.”

The Commencement Convocation will take place 51 years—to the day—after James Watson and Francis Crick published the structure of DNA in Nature. At the ceremony, Honorary Degrees will be presented to Joan Argetsinger Steitz, Ph.D., Shirley M. Tilghman, Ph.D., and James D. Watson, Ph.D., F.R.S.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is a private, non-profit basic research institution. Under the leadership of Dr. Bruce Stillman, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society (London), more than 330 scientists at the Laboratory conduct groundbreaking research in cancer, neurobiology, plant genetics, and bioinformatics.

Watson School of Biological Sciences Degree Recipients:

Amy A. Caudy
Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellow
Entering Class of 1999
Thesis: “Mechanism and applications of RNAi”

Emiliano M. Rial Verde
University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellow
Entering Class of 1999
Thesis: “The role of the immediate-early gene arc in synaptic transmission”

Ira M. Hall
University of California, Berkeley
Entering Class of 2000
Thesis: “A Role for RNA Interference in Heterochromatic Silencing and Chromosome Dynamics”

Elizabeth E. Thomas
Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellow
Entering Class of 1999
Thesis: “Exploring repetitive sequences in the human genome”

Patrick J. Paddison
Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington
Entering Class of 2000
Thesis: “RNA Interference in mammals: the quest for illuminating gene function”

Niraj Harish Tolia
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, United Kingdom
Entering Class of 1999
Thesis: “Structural and biochemical studies of the malaria parasite Plasmodim Falciparum Protein EBA-175 involved in erythrocyte invasion”

Watson School of Biological Sciences Honorary Degree Recipients:

Joan Argetsinger Steitz, Ph.D.
In 1970, Joan Argetsinger Steitz began a teaching career at Yale University, which was to span the next three decades. Today she is the Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale where she continues to pursue her research in the structure and function of small ribonucleoprotein complexes from eukaryotes and RNA Processing. Dr. Steitz is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an active member of the National Academy of Sciences. She is also on the editorial board of several journals, including the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press’ Genes and Development and RNA, for which she is associate editor.

Shirley M. Tilghman, Ph.D.
Shirley M. Tilghman assumed office as Princeton University’s 19th president on June 15, 2001 after serving on the Princeton faculty for 15 years. In addition to her scientific success, which includes a number of groundbreaking discoveries while participating in cloning the first mammalian gene, Dr. Tilghman is also renowned for her national leadership on behalf of women in science and for promoting efforts to make the early careers of young scientists meaningful and productive. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London, she has served as trustee of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

James D. Watson, Ph.D., F.R.S.
In 1953, while working at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, James D. Watson, with Francis H.C. Crick, successfully proposed the double helical structure for DNA. For this work, he and Crick, together with Maurice Wilkins, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. In 1968, he became director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and shifted its research focus to the study of cancer. In 1988, Dr. Watson was appointed as associate director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as the driving force behind the creation of the Human Genome Project. In 1989, he became the first director of the National Center for Human Genome Research at the NIH, a position he held until 1992. He was named Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s first President in 1994, and in November 2003, was appointed its first Chancellor, the position he retains today.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Photos of all degree recipients are available upon request.
To attend the event, please call 516-367-8489.

Written by: Public Affairs | | 516-367-8455

Stay informed

Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest discoveries, upcoming events, videos, podcasts, and a news roundup delivered straight to your inbox every month.

  Newsletter Signup

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program annually hosts more than 12,000 scientists. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and the DNA Learning Center with programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit