Academic journal article Genetics

The 2005 GSA Honors and Awards

Academic journal article Genetics

The 2005 GSA Honors and Awards

Article excerpt

The Genetics Society of America annually honors members who have made outstanding contributions to genetics. The Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal recognizes a lifetime contribution to the science of genetics. The Genetics Society of America Medal recognizes particularly outstanding contributions to the science of genetics within the past 15 years. The George W. Beadle Medal recognizes distinguished service to the field of genetics and the community of geneticists. We are pleased to announce the 2005 awards.

The 2005 Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal

Robert L. Metzenberg

IT is completely fitting that Robert L. Metzenberg be chosen to receive the 2005 Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal. In addition to making a full lifetime's worth of impressive contributions to genetics in his years as Professor at the University of Wisconsin (1958-1996), he has also made stunning research contributions as Emeritus Professor, at Stanford University, at UCLA, and working in his home laboratory. Metzenberg's more than 120 publications include many gems. But equally important are his countless intangible contributions to members of the scientific community. If you have met Bob even just once, you know what we mean. As Bob once said (although not about himself), "The calendar ticks by at very different rates in different people, and here and there, a scientist is a human Stradivarius."

One remarkable thing about Bob is his breadth of interests and abilities. In addition to being one of the most gifted Neurospora geneticists ever, he is completely at ease with all aspects of biochemistry. Indeed, he was an award-winning teacher of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. A partial explanation comes from a glance at his training. Bob majored in chemistry at Pomona College, with minors in physics and biology (which he has pointed out were almost "immiscible" with chemistry at the time). As a graduate student in the laboratory of Herschel Mitchell at CaI Tech, he worked on the biosynthesis of amino acids in Neurospora, and as a postdoc with Philip Cohen in Wisconsin he studied enzymatic reactions involved in urea synthesis in mammals and amphibia. Next, curiosity about the underlying genes led him to spend a year with Ernst Hadorn in Zurich, soaking up developmental genetics. He then made the important decision to return to Neurospora to study "the genetics of regulation of enzyme synthesis in a simple eukaryote."

He chose to work on regulation of carbon, sulfur, and phosphorus utilization at a time when little was understood regarding regulatory differences between eukaryotes and bacteria. His identification of multiple regulatory mutants that were defective in phosphorus or sulfur utilization and his demonstration that the underlying genes exist in a hierarchy to turn on a family of unlinked structural genes was a major advance. Indeed, Bob was the first to discover a cascade of positive- and negative-acting products of regulatory genes acting to govern eukaryote gene expression. These studies foreshadowed the discovery of similar regulatory systems in other organisms.

In writing about "Thomas Hunt Morgan and His Legacy," Ed Lewis (http://nobelprize.org/medicine/articles/ lewis/) noted that Morgan and his famous students (A. H. Sturtevant, C. B. Bridges, and H. J. Muller) remained at the bench throughout their careers: "The investigator must be on top of the research if he or she is to recognize unexpected findings when they occur." Bob also managed to stay at the bench, even when it required installing a bench in his office or in his spare bedroom. He is a natural tinkerer, overflowing with interesting ideas to tinker with. As a consequence, his research contributions have been broad and have not been limited to conceptual advances. Throughout his career Bob has also been responsible for numerous innovations and improvements in practical techniques, reflecting his continued activity at the bench and the pleasure he takes in carrying out experiments with his own hands. …

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