(Elio to friends)
1949 No degree. Central University Medical School, Quito, Ecuador
1952 M.A., Bacteriology University of Kansas
1954 Ph.D, Microbiology University of Pennsylvania
1955-1956 Private, US Army, Walter Reed Army Inst. of Research
1956-1958 State Serum Inst. Copenhagen (with Ole Maaløe)
My life in short
I was born in Milan, Italy, of Polish Jewish parents. In late 1940, we emigrated safely to Ecuador, where I
went to high school and medical school for a few years. In 1950, I came to the US, becoming a graduate student
at the University of Kansas and then getting a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania working in microbial cytology,
as it was then called. I got married to Barbara and had two children: Judy is a famed stained glass artist whose
be seen on the net. John works at the Zoo in Boston and is an avid
rock climber and runner. Barbara, alas, died of cancer at the age of 56 after 33 years of marriage. I married a
childhood sweetheart, Edith in 1994 and, thanks to her, retired and moved to San Diego in 1995.
After getting my Ph.D., I got drafted into the Army and was called upon to
fight the Battle of the Potomac, at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. That’s where my scientific work
started in earnest. Working under Joe Smadel, I determined that rickettsiae, the agents of typhus, are bacteria
because I could see them divide by binary fission. Documenting it required that I had to peer under the microscope
at infected host cells for a hours on end. Also, we found that rickettsiae have a cell wall, just like bacteria.
I then did a postdoc with went Ole Maaløe in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Together with Niels Ole Kjeldgaard, we discovered that Salmonella, the bacterium we were working on, exists
in a continuum of physiological states, depending on the growth rate. Slow growing bugs are small and have few
ribosomes, and the converse is true when they grow rapidly. We also did a number of "shifts" back and
forth between rich and poor media. In an unrelated study, I also found out that relatively fast growing E. coli
make DNA throughout the cell cycle.
I was now ready for a job. My first one was at the newly founded medical
school at the U. of Florida, where I spent 4 years. I then went to Tufts in Boston for the following 33 years.
My collaborators and I worked on a number of issues related to growth and cell division. Thus, we discovered that
bacteria have polyribosomes and that these contain mRNA. After a prolonged sally into lipid metabolism, we worked
assiduously on the role of the cell membrane in DNA synthesis and chromosome segregation. The last major thing
discovered in my lab is that E. coli’s origin
of chromosome replication sticks to the cell membrane, but does so only when recently synthesized. Under this condition,
this region of the chromosome is half methylated (the old strand is methylated, the new strand not yet). We also
found that methylation of this region is much delayed relative to the rest of the DNA. I trained 6 Ph.D. students
and 32 postdoctoral fellows. Oh, and I chaired the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at Tufts for
23 years. For my list of publications, click on the button at the bottom of the page.
I also edited, co-edited or wrote a bunch of books, textbooks and reference. Here are some links:
Mechanisms of Microbial
coli and Salmonella
An Electronic Companion To
Physiology of the Bacterial Cell
Main honors (some deserved) and activities
Tufts University. Distinguished Professor, 1987
Tufts Univ. Med. Students' Teaching Award, (awarded 11 times) ’73- ‘94
Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology, 1974-present
Chairman, NIH Bacteriology & Mycology Study Section, 1978-1979
Association of Medical School Microbiology Chairmen, President, 1984-1985
President, American Society for Microbiology, 1985-86
Chair, International Activities Comm., Am. Soc. for Microbiology, 1986-94
Member, NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, 1988-93
Honorary Member, Ecuadorian Society for Microbiology, 1990
Honorary Member, Spanish Society for Microbiology, 1991
U.S. Delegate, Bacteriology Div., Int'l. Union of Microbiol. Societies, 1991-95
Scientific Advisor, TV Microbial Literacy Project, 1993-1999
Member, Board of Governors, American Academy of Microbiology, 1997-2000
Chairman, Editorial Board, ASM News, 1999-present
My life outside the lab
My hobbies include studying wild mushrooms and hiking. I edited the Bulletin of the Boston Mycological Club
from 1973 to 1995 and I received two major awards for Contributions to Amateur Mycology in 1991 and 1993. I also
help found the San Diego Mycological Society, a thriving organization. In 1997, I wrote a book on mushrooms "In the Company of Mushrooms, to show you
that I take my hobbies seriously. It was published by Harvard University Press
What am I doing now?
Between doing some lecturing, attending lab meetings and journal clubs, consulting, editing, and writing, I
stay quite busy. Friends have suggested that in order not to work so hard I should un-retire. I still suffer from
cacoethes scribendi, the itch of writing.