May 2022: Stephen Goff Lab


What is the main focus of your lab?

We study the replication of retroviruses and host factors that regulate them. We have interest in differentiation-specific expression of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs).

How long have you had your lab? When did you join Columbia University?

I’ve had my lab here for 41 years. I came in the fall of 1981.

How big is your lab currently?

 Two postdocs, one student, one tech. Looking for more!

Where is your lab located?

HHSC 1008

Current affairs:

What are the most exciting projects/directions in the lab at this moment?

Epigenetic silencing of incoming viral genomes by histone modifications. Role of SUMOylation in virus restriction. Silencing of HIV in latency. Provirus integration site selection. ERV expression in tumors, and induction to induce immunosensitization.

What are the biggest accomplishments that your lab recently had?

Redirecting provirus integration into centromeric DNA. Identifying host factors for silencing of retroviral DNAs.


What are the model systems that your lab is using?

All our work (now) is in cell lines in culture. We have used KO mice heavily in the past but not lately. This might change.

What are the key techniques that your lab is using? Are you open to training scientists from other labs?

Basic molecular biology. Cell culture. DNA manipulation, transfections, KO, virology. Microscopy.

What facilities or equipment does your lab absolutely rely upon? Do you use CSCI cores?

Deep sequencing. RNA seq. FACS. MS.

Who shall be contacted with questions about equipment, resources and training?

Kenia de los Santos  or myself


What's your best approach to mentoring trainees in the lab?

Offer menus and be available. Cheerleading.

Who were your most influential mentors/role models in science and what did you learn from them?

Paul Berg – controls, data organization, presentation. David Baltimore – efficiency and clarity.

Can you recommend courses/lectures in Columbia University that would be most beneficial for students/postdocs?

Hmmm. Genetics?

What would be your career advice for students/postdocs?

Figure out if you want to be a lab head or not – and if yes, go for it.

Are you accepting rotating students at the moment?

Maybe. They need to be very independent, and might be smart to have a co-mentor.


Lab management:

How do members of your lab celebrate accomplishments?


Does your lab have any fun traditions?


What is the key to running a successful lab?

Keeping people on track, keeping them excited, and letting them do what excites them.

What was the most exciting part about starting your new lab?

Opening the boxes? Running the first gels? Welcoming the first new members?

Stem Cell Directions:

What are the most important recent developments in the stem cell field?

Always the technology. Crispr. Better transfection. Methods like ChIP, RNAseq and so on.


What was the main reason of you joining CSCI? What are the beneficial aspects of CSCI membership for your lab?

We started because of our interest in the strikingly distinctive expression profiles of ES cells for ERVs and exogenous retroviruses. We remain interested in ES regulation of viral expression.

What do you plan to bring to the CSCI community?

ERVs as reporters of differentiation.