CORVALLIS - California surfer and controversial Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Kary Mullis will speak at Oregon State University on Feb. 6 His talk, "The Unusual Origin of Polymerase Chain Reaction," starts at 7:30 p.m. in LaSells Stewart Center as part of OSU's Convocations and Lectures Series. It is free and open to the public.
Mullis' fame came with his discovery of the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, a method of selectively multiplying and mass-producing specific DNA segments in just hours. Previously, DNA could be multiplied, but not isolated. His discovery makes possible numerous projects, from cloning to DNA fingerprinting. His method was used last year to identify a suspect in Washington's Green River killings.
When Mullis received the telephone call telling him his work on PCR had earned him the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1993, Mullis notes in his autobiography that he put down the phone and headed for the beach for an hour of surfing.
While PCR brought Mullis international acclaim, his views on science and public policy expressed in his autobiography, "Dancing Naked in the Mind Field" generated controversy. In his writings he states that numerous phenomena have been accepted by the scientific establishment, but have never been demonstrated through the scientific method.
Issues he feels have not been proven include whether the HIV virus causes AIDS, if global warming is a result of environmental abuse, and problems with the Earth's ozone layer.
In competition for funding, researchers often use scare tactics to get attention, Mullis said.
Mullis received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1966 and his doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972.
The final talk in the series will be April 30 when Charles "Flip" Nicklin, a former scuba instructor who became famous for his photographs of whales, will talk on "Covering Whale Research."