Lee Hartwell, at 70, Tackles Personalized Medicine, Education in Latest Career Phase

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something he’s spending half his time on.

“There have been a lot of good experiments in science education at the K-12 level, but they are not sustainable, and not scalable. That’s what we need to do,” Hartwell says. “We need to figure out how to do good things in a classroom, and sustain them beyond a single individual and scale them to the world. I think IT is going to completely change education. I’m not sure that in 10 years or 20 years there will even be classrooms as we now know them. Our whole human life is being changed by IT in an incredibly dramatic way.”

Before I left Hartwell’s office, I had to ask the touchy question about his personal health at the age of 70, and whether he’ll be around to see some of his vision implemented. At least in conventional perceptions of aging, 70 sounds old to many people.

But Hartwell still has the lean build and graceful athletic gait of a far younger man. He could easily pass for 55. One of the ways he stays fit is by bicycle commuting. The day of our interview, his mountain bike was sitting there in the office, which he has regularly used to commute 5 miles each way from home to the Hutch. It takes him about a half hour, he says.

“It’s just right, an hour of riding every day is the right amount of exercise for me. I love it. I hate getting in a car,” Hartwell says. He adds: “I feel great, no health problems.”

How long can he imagine pursuing this new goal of advancing personalized medicine, global sustainability, and science education? Hartwell didn’t answer with a specific number. But he suggested it could be a long time.

“I think I’ll always be doing things I find interesting. It doesn’t seem like work to me,” Hartwell says. “I don’t play golf. I can’t imagine not having some interesting work to be doing. I’ll do it as long as I can.”

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