The Bio-Sphere

By Tom McCutchan

Tom McCutchan was raised in Aledo, Ill, a rural farm community near the Mississippi River. While in high school he held part-time and summer jobs. He unloaded tomatoes for Heinz, detasseled corn, washed dishes at a lunch counter, performed janitorial services, was an orderly in a mental institution and a lifeguard. Despite a genuine effort, he did not excel in any of these positions. Everyone agreed that his best hope would be to seek higher education. He went on to receive bachelors of arts from DePauw University and a Ph.D from Purdue University. At the latter, he studied the chemistry of biological molecules, which was to become an area of considerable scientific interest. He received a fellowship to continue those studies at Yale University, where new techniques for molecular cloning and gene sequencing were being developed. In 1976, he was offered a position at the National Cancer Institute to work on viruses that were able to transmit tumors. In 1980, he was given the opportunity to direct a major laboratory at the National Institutes Health. During his 30 years at the NIH he became an associate editor of a genetics journal and was on the editorial board of two other scientific publications. In addition, he wrote and published more than 150 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 2005 to study the parasitic infections of endangered species in South Africa, and an Orise Fellowship in 2010 from Oakridge Laboratories to develop diagnostics for newly emerging diseases in the U.S. He is now, at least temporarily, retired and living in Union.


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