Career Interview: Russ B. Altman, MD, PhD

Kenneth Fong Professor of Bioengineering, Genetics, Medicine & Computer Science
Stanford University, Schools of Engineering & Medicine

ASHG: If you could go back to when you were a trainee, what is one piece of advice you would give yourself for your current career?

Dr. Altman: Learn as much mathematics as you can. It has always been critical for probability, statistics, computer science, and engineering. It is now critical for biology and medicine.

ASHG: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?

Dr. Altman: Favorite – interacting with students and post-docs in the classroom or 1:1 on research projects.

Least favorite – mandatory training for the purposes of compliance with federal, state, local rules. These are meritorious topics (conflict of interest, privacy, safe workplace, respectful workplace), but mandatory training sessions tempt me to consider becoming a felon.

ASHG: What do you think the future holds for the field of genetics?

Dr. Altman: Human genetics is going to have to get better at including environment in its attempts to explain human traits, diseases, phenotypes. I wonder if it will or will it cede this exciting frontier to another field, thus losing a great opportunity to create grand unified theories.

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