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Gillian Air, 2015-07-19

 Item — Box: AV01, miniDV: CSHL1004

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

The Oral History Collection contains interviews conducted with 200 scientists within the fields of molecular biology, genetics, and the life sciences between 1990 and 2018. The interviewees provide first-hand accounts of their experiences in the fields of modern biology, such as neuroscience, cancer, genetics, plant genetics, genomics, biotechnology and others, from the 1940s through the 2000s. The collection contains audio and video recordings, as well as transcripts of interviews.

The interviews offer a glimpse into the life of prominent scientists. The interviews discuss scientists' early school days and beginning interests in science to what or who made them choose to go into science. They also include reminiscences about their research and major discoveries, experiences of women in science, the character and life of leading scientists like Barbara McClintock and James D. Watson, the history of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the nature of the double-helix discovery, the ethics of the Human Genome Project and biotechnology.

Many scientists interviewed for this project have either carried out their research or attended scientific meetings at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Their recollections document not only the history of molecular biology and genetics the but also the laboratory's role in this history. The collection comprises of Hi8 8mm tapes; mini-DV; DVCAM and VHS audio cassette tapes. Most of the interviews from this collection have been transcribed. Interviews which have been digitized can be found at the Oral History Collection page.

The collection is organized into two series: Talking Science Interviews and Presentations. Talking Science Interviews consist of individual scientists, while the Presentations series include clips of oral history interviews that were used for a specific meeting or event.

From the Collection:

From the Collection:
  1. Talking Science Interviews, 1990-2017
  2. Presentations, 2016-2019


  • Creation: 2015-07-19


Conditions Governing Access

Portions of this collection have been digitized and are available online: Select tapes have been digitized thanks to support from CLIR Recordings at Risk Grant awarded in 2021, these tapes are available for research online via our Oral History Website and in person at CSHL Archives. Please contact CSHL Archives with any questions regarding availability.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. Gillian Air (George Lynn Cross Professor and Interim Chair of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Associate Dean of the Graduate College, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK) trained as a protein biochemist during graduate school in Australia before moving to Cambridge to sequence phage proteins with Fred Sanger and colleagues at a time when women were infrequently found working as biochemists. She returned to Australia to transition to the study of influenza viruses, eventually focusing on the major surface glycoproteins, which are the hemagglutinin and the neuraminidase. The significance of their interactions with terminal sialic acids for viral virulence was known at the time and continues to be of profound interest to this day. Upon moving to the University of Alabama, Gillian implemented new methods in cDNA and protein sequencing to pioneer studies on the evolution of influenza antigenic drift and selection, in collaboration with Robert Webster and Graeme Laver. Both topics were and are highly relevant to vaccine development. Gillian also brought expertise in molecular biology to a highly fruitful collaboration with X-ray crystallographer Ming Luo and chemist Wayne Brouillette to develop a structure-based approach for discovering new neuraminidase inhibitors. Their best inhibitor had sub-nanomolar affinity and, after further medicinal chemistry at Biocryst Pharmaceuticals Inc., it was approved by the FDA and commercialized as injectable RapiVab (Peramivir). Gillian also used the inhibitors to investigate the role of the neuraminidase in infection, and found a role in depleting sialic acid from virus might be more pertinent than a role in host cell surface remodeling to inhibit reinfection.


1 Cassettes (Camcorder footage) : MiniDV ; 25 min

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Physical Description

Sony DVR 25 minutes

Physical Description

Interview with Gillian Air by Mila Pollock during the Sequencing Meeting.

Repository Details

Part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Repository

Library & Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
One Bungtown Rd
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724 USA