Stan Fields is Immediate Past President of the Genetics Society of America. The views expressed in his posts are his and are not necessarily endorsed by the Society.

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My apologies for this blog post to Sir William Schwenck Gilbert, who collaborated with Sir Arthur Sullivan on a series of comic operas that included The Pirates of Penzance. Pirates premiered in 1879 and featured a song called “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General,” and I am far from the first to put forward a parody of this tune.  Gilbert not only wrote the librettos but also provided illustrations, under the name “Bab,” for the published versions of the operas. Our frameshifts cartoonist, Retrosleep, who also goes by the name Tom Palumbo, does his own parody here of Gilbert’s drawing of the major-general. And Vijay Ramani, a grad student in Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, offers a rendition of the tune, accompanied by Ian Blumenthal, a grad student in Bioengineering at the University of Washington. My thanks to Jane Gitschier and Jane Fields for making this version singable.



I am the very model of a classical geneticist,
I learned in 1953 that DNA bends right to twist,
I know alleles found in my brother and my sister are half mine,
I edit genomes with precision using CRISPR and Cas9;
My sympathy’s with Darwin as I hear of his deje-ec-tion,
When he received the post from Wallace on na’tral sele-ec-tion,
I tell of early humans’ out of Africa progre-es-sion,
And mating with Neanderthals that led to introgre-es-sion.

The Xs and the Ys go through chromosome condensa-ation,
They equalize transcription via dosage compensa-ation.
In short, because I know so well that DNA bends right to twist,
I am the very model of a classical geneticist.

The peaches in my kitchen bring out curious Drosophilists,
The swarming flies mean more to them than serious theosophists;
I trace a lineage just like a learned nematologist,
I know the worm’s hemolymph better than a hematologist;
When I find some E. coli in a burger, they’re a scary lot,
But in my lab’ratory, they’re a consummate prokaryote;
I am delighted when my zebrafish mutant screens snag a gene,
I publish in Genetics or another one-word magazine.

To get improved crop yields, Arabidopsis is the plant we grow,
When my grant on this gets a lousy score I cry: “It can’t be so.”
In short, because I know so well that DNA bends right to twist,
I am the very model of a classical geneticist.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays every morning I’ll be te-eaching
Enthusiastic undergraduates you’ll find me re-eaching;
I have my students all attend a computational seminar,
So that they’ll make their graphs and figures using ggplot in R;
I show how to find novel proteins using two Gal4 domains,
With yeast they will not come across in any standard Bordeaux strains;
I write the thoughtful review, perspective and editorial,
Because in ev’ry arcane matter I am professorial.

The most effervescent GSA meeting goer may be me,
When I receive the latest information at TAGC,
In short, because I know so well that DNA bends right to twist,
I am the very model of a classical geneticist.


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  1. Very cute but a true classical geneticist would not bother with the molecular part. We just enjoy designing infernally, fiendishly clever screens and building brilliant models by deduction. The song is really about model organism molecular geneticists and should perhaps be sung in close harmony Ina private audience with Francis Collins, in an effort to save the MOD databases from centralization.