For fundamental discoveries in DNA replication and protein biochemistry; for visionary leadership in directing national and international scientific organizations to better people’s lives; and for passionate dedication to improving education in science and mathematics.
The 2016 Lasker~Koshland Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science honors a talented biochemist and visionary leader who has crusaded to enhance scientific education and bolster its influence on societies across the globe. In his research, Bruce M. Alberts (University of California, San Francisco) devised powerful experimental tools that helped him understand the mechanism by which cells copy DNA, thereby establishing a new paradigm of molecular machines that perform crucial physiological functions. Aiming to share not only what he knew about biochemistry, but to teach students how to think like scientists, he teamed up with a small group of colleagues to write an innovative cell biology textbook, now in its 6th edition, that has inspired countless individuals worldwide to find joy in experimentation, discovery, and logical reasoning. As president of the US National Academy of Sciences and in other roles, Alberts has advocated tirelessly to improve science education in the classroom and among the populace. He has championed the notion that science and the institutions that support it provide a crucial foundation for any successful nation, arguing that evidence-based knowledge and value systems are vital for sound decisions that enhance citizens’ welfare. Through his unassuming, honest, and effective approach, Alberts has earned universal respect and trust from scientists and policy-makers in every corner of the planet.
Alberts’s first dramatic scientific insight grew from failure. In 1965, after five years of graduate school, he met with a group of distinguished Harvard professors for what he thought was a mere formality. Surely, these senior scientists would approve his degree, as they had for every student he knew of. Instead, he flunked.
Award presentation by Joseph Goldstein
Acceptance remarks by Bruce M. Alberts
I am honored to receive this recognition, especially as it carries Dan Koshland’s name. I followed Dan’s work closely, and I had the privilege of co-designing a major DNA exhibit with him for the opening of the new Marion Koshland Science Museum, which Dan had funded in his wife’s memory at the National Academy of Sciences. Dan and I went back and forth on every detail, and it is because of his wonderful sense of humor that the exhibit ended up featuring the shocking claim that “44 percent of a fruit fly’s genes match yours.”
The 2016 clinical award video
Video Credit: Flora Lichtman