Dobzhansky began his studies of genetics as a young faculty member at St Petersburg State University in the 1920s before immigrating to Columbia University in New York to study with Thomas Hunt Morgan and the amazing “Drosophila fly “ group. His voluminous and insightful work has been an inspiration to a generation of gene and genome scientists who have embraced his appreciation for the value natural population assessment. His legacy includes a plethora of productive students (notably Richard Lewontin, Bruce Wallace, Francisco Ayala, Wyatt Anderson, Jeff Powell and many more innovators of population genetic theory and practice). In step with (actually at times in conflict with) the giants of theoretical population genetics of his day (Sewell Wright, Jim Crow, Motoo Kimura), Dobzhansky’s team set the stage for applications in today’s genome wide association studies (GWAS) in human and model species, forensic identifications in capitol crime scenes, and conservation genetics, three fields to which I have been honored to have contributed.
The Dobzhansky Center is dedicated to building a strong forward-thinking group of genome and computer scientists to generate and interpret the massive datasets of our genomic era. At first, we will act as a training center dedicated to producing capable and innovation junior investigators in genome informatics. Their applications shall complement and perhaps invigorate research discoveries in human and comparative medicine as well as in evolutionary and conservation genomics. I had the privilege to have learned in my youth so much from Professor Dobzhansky and his students, that I am hoping that the faculty and fellows that make us the Dobzhansky Center would give back to the Russian students of genetics a taste of the honey that Dobzhansky and his contemporaries have seeded.
Stephen J O'Brien
April 2, 2012