McGill congratulates Nobel-winning alumnus


Jack Szostak shares medicine prize for chromosome research

McGill University has offered congratulations to Jack Szostak, a prize-winning 1972 graduate in cell biology, who has won a share of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Szostak, who today is an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School, shares the prize with Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California, San Francisco, and Carol Greider of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The prize was awarded for for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase, the Royal Swedish Academy announced today.

Their research showed how organisms rely on that particular enzyme to protect themselves from losing genetic material during cell division. Later studies linked this enzyme to cancer and aging-related maladies.

"On behalf of McGill, I wish to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Szostak, and the other recipients, on this singular achievement in such a vital field of research," McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum said. "We are always encouraged when one of our graduates achieves such a notable honour. Dr. Szostak's work has advanced our understanding of how cells work and this prestigious award adds to his prominent reputation as a superb researcher and scientist."

Szostak, a brilliant student who entered McGill in 1968 at age 15 and was awarded a McGill University Scholarship and the Walter W. Ross III Memorial Scholarship in 1971, as well as the Penhallow Prize in Botany in 1972, joins four other McGill alumni who have been awarded a Nobel prize:

  • Rudolph Marcus, BSc'43, PhD'46, received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his theory of electron transfer.
  • David Hubel, BSc'47, MDCM'51, was co-recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his groundbreaking work on visual perception.
  • American particle physicist Val Fitch, BEng'48, was co-recipient of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics for an experiment conducted in 1964 that disproved the long-held theory that particle interaction should be indifferent to the direction of time.
  • Endocrinologist Andrew Victor Schally, BSc'55, PhD'59, DSc'79, was the co-recipient of the 1977 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his research on hormones.

Photo by Jussi Puikkonen. Courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital.

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