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Monday, August 7, 2006

Driven

NEWTON

MIT Professor Susumu Tonegawa has a well-documented competitive streak.

It is the sort of streak that drove him to climb the steps of the Great Wall before everyone else during a trip to China, staff writer Marcella Bombardieri reports in today's Globe.

It is also the sort of streak that helped win him a Nobel Prize.

But some colleagues are now saying that Tonegawa, a 66-year-old Chestnut Hill resident and father of three, has taken rivalry to an extreme that is harmful to the university, and to the larger cause of science, especially in an age when advancements are often too complex for one scientist to make alone.

Tonegawa has been embroiled in controversy over e-mails he sent in May to a younger female neuroscientist who had an MIT job offer; the missives said, ``I do not feel comfortable at all to have you here" because ``unpleasant competition" would result between their two labs.

His critics fear his actions will hinder MIT's quest to recruit the best talent -- especially women.

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