J. Michael Bishop & Harold E. Varmus

Can Scientific Careers Be Planned?

Category: Agora Talks

Date: 28 June 2018

Duration: 40 min

Quality: HD MD SD

J. Michael Bishop & Harold E. Varmus (2018) - Can Scientific Careers Be Planned?


There is no single or predictable path to success in biomedical research. We will use our personal stories to illustrate this point; to dramatize some of the common ingredients of success; and to comment on the current climate for doing research.
We attended small liberal arts colleges, where we became enamored of the humanities as well as the sciences, and it was only after entering medical school, or even later, that we began to contemplate careers in research. We received our initial laboratory training in idiosyncratic ways, and we were both later lured to cancer research by the attraction of viruses that caused tumors in animals. After an unexpected meeting, we formed a partnership that endured for more than a decade and produced a discovery that led to a Nobel Prize.
Why did we succeed? Would our approach be viable in today’s more difficult, hypercompetitive environment? We will ask the Agora audience to discuss these issues with us.

Recommended readings:

• For succinct introductions to our years before we received the Nobel Prize, see:


• For a summary of problems that currently afflict the conduct of biomedical research, at least in the US, see:

Further readings:

• For more discursive descriptions of our careers, see: