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McGill welcomes Nobel laureate

Published: 29 May 2008

Popular scientist Peter Doherty receives honorary doctorate, delivers lectures

Popular scientist Peter Doherty receives honorary doctorate, delivers lectures

World-renowned scientist and author Professor Peter Doherty (Nobel Laureate for Medicine, 1996) will receive an honorary degree from McGill University’s Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences on June 2. Prof. Doherty will deliver two public lectures June 2 and June 3.

Prof. Doherty will deliver his first lecture, A Life in Science, at 10 a.m., June 2, in Room R2-045 of the Raymond Building on McGill’s Macdonald campus, 21111 Lakeshore Road, Ste. Anne de Bellevue. He will discuss his work on broadening public understanding of how science and scientists work, which is the topic of his latest book, The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize. Prof. Doherty has also recently published A Light History of Hot Air, in which he signals the need for action on climate change.

Professor Doherty will receive Doctor of Science (honoris causa) at the Convocation of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences on June 2 at 2 p.m., also on McGill’s Macdonald campus.

Professor Doherty will deliver a second lecture, "Cell-mediated immunity in virus infections", on Tuesday, June 3 at 9 a.m. in the Amphitheatre of McGill’s Lyman Duff Medical Building, 3775 University St.

About Peter Doherty

Born in Brisbane (1940), Australia, Peter Doherty studied Veterinary Science at Uni. Queensland before taking his PhD in virology at Uni. Edinburgh. He joined the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) at the Australian National University as a Research Fellow studying virology.

It was in this period (1973-75) that he collaborated with Rolf Zinkernagel on the work which led to their shared Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1996 for their discoveries about how cells of the immune system (killer T cells) recognise both self molecules and foreign molecules to eliminate virus infected cells. They clarified the recognition mechanisms used by T-cells within the cellular immune system, fundamentally changing our understanding of immunity. Moreover, their work provided new opportunities for the selective modification of immune reactions both to microorganisms, and to self tissues. The importance of his work is that it changed the direction of research into diseases such as cancer, autoimmune diseases such as MS and diabetes, and organ transplantation.

Prof. Doherty is a world authority on cellular immunity whose current research focuses on viral infections and the role of CD8+ T cells in immunity. He is an advocate for innovation and the role of science in society. He has been outspoken on the need to address climate change and supports the use of GM crops to improve yields and reduce pesticide and fertiliser use. He wrote The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize to give people a better understanding of how science and scientists worked. In 2007, he published his second non-fiction book for lay readers. In A Light History of Hot Air, Prof. Doherty signals a warning about the need for action on climate change and the need to get people to think about evidence-based reality and not be seduced by fantasy.

He has published over 350 scientific papers, and has been honored with many other prestigious awards, including the Paul Ehrlich Prize; the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award USA; and the Gairdner International Award for Medical Science. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Veterinary Science by The University of Queensland, and holds honorary doctorates from 15 other universities. Declared a member of Australia's 100 Living National Treasures in 1997, his awards also include Australian of the Year, election to the Royal Society of London, the Australian Academy of Science and the US National Academy of Sciences.

In 1975, Doherty moved to the Immunology Graduate Group at the University of Philadelphia in 1975 studying influenza, rabies and multiple sclerosis. From 1982-88, he was Head of the Department of Experimental Pathology at the JCSMR. In 1988, he became Head of the Immunology Department at St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Since 2002, he shares his time between his lab at St Jude’s and as Laureate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne.

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