Stanley Falkow is a professor of Microbiology & Immunology at the Stanford School of Medicine. His research interests lie in bacterial pathogenesis – how bacteria cause infection and disease – and over the course of his career he has contributed fundamental discoveries to the field. Falkow received the Lasker prize this year for special achievement in medical science, and the Lasker Foundation calls him “one of the great microbe hunters of all time”.
Molecular techniques (methods of analysis that rely on bacterial DNA) are now widely used for infectious disease diagnosis, thanks in large part to Falkow, who was among the first to apply an understanding of genes and virulence determinants to analyzing patient samples. He has published extensively in areas ranging from antibiotic resistance to food borne illness to microarrays. It is really difficult to compose interview questions for a scientist whose career has been as far-reaching and profoundly significant as Stan Falkow’s. Luckily for me, Dr. Falkow is a gracious conversationalist.
In this interview, I talked with Dr. Falkow about his prescient concerns about the dangers of using antibiotics as growth promoters in livestock, why Salmonella is so good at making you sick, and why students who are interested in science should follow their passion.