St. Louis on the Air
6:45 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Wash U Has Four Of The World’s Top Researchers

Four of the top twenty-one influential researchers in the world live in the St. Louis area.

The researchers are from Washington University in St. Louis and all are in the field of genomics.  The findings come from Thomson Reuters ScienceWatch, an open web resource for science metrics and analysis.

Professor Richard K. Wilson is the world’s “hottest” researcher, in part, for a landmark paper, “A Map of Human Genome Variation from Population-Scale Sequencing.”  The three other “hot” researchers from Washington University who contributed to the paper and are featured in the Thomson Reuters report include Li Ding, Elaine Mardis and Robert Fulton.

The rankings were compiled based on the number of citations researchers received from their work.  Wilson led the pack with fifteen significant works.

Wilson and Li Ding along with Thomson Reuters ScienceWatch.com editor Chris King joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to talk about genomics research.  The goal of such research at the Genome Institute at Washington University, of Wilson is the director and Ding is the head of the Genomics Medical group, is “pushing the limits of academic research by creating, testing, and implementing new approaches to the study of biology with the goal of understanding human health and disease, as well as evolution and the biology of other organisms.”

A discussion with Richard K. Wilson and Li Ding

Developing an Interest in Science Research

The recent financial downturn and the effects of sequestration trouble many researchers.

“I worry about opportunities in high level research.  One of the things that is scary to us is that our NIH budget has essentially been flat for several years now.  Young investigators both men and women are having a tough time getting their first grants,” Wilson said.

The financial and political issues are compounded with a general lack of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in the United States.  There are certainly bright spots in this U.S. but growing up in China, Ding said, “Science is really one of the hot majors.  I liked mass physics since I was a little girl so it was very natural for me to get into biology and I also agree that in China people pay close attention to science.  We are encouraged to pursue a scientific career -- by parents, leaders and teachers.”

Wilson added, “Science isn’t necessarily believed to be cool and when you go to China - I went on a trip a couple of years ago - there is a lot of encouragement and science is seen as a major contributor to society.”

Follow St. Louis Public Radio on Twitter - @stlpublicradio

Related Program