Maquat Receives International RNA Society Lifetime Achievement Award

June 28, 2010

Lynne Maquat, Ph.D.

Lynne Maquat, Ph.D., J. Lowell Orbison Chair and Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, was honored with the RNA Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Service on Saturday, June 26 at the society’s 15th annual meeting in Seattle, Washington. Maquat has been a member of the society since its formation in 1993, and has played an extremely active role, holding every elective office from director, to secretary/treasurer, to president.

Maquat, also the director of the University of Rochester Center for RNA Biology, is well known in the RNA field for her research on nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, a cellular mechanism to remove flawed RNA molecules. These flawed RNA molecules are oftentimes due to a mistake in the genetic material, DNA, or solely in its product, RNA, which encodes instructions for making proteins that carry out cellular functions. These flawed RNA molecules need to be destroyed by nonsense-mediated decay to prevent the production of abnormally shortened proteins, and Maquat has made major discoveries in this field, defining mechanisms by which this is done. Her work on this subject has been published regularly in prestigious journals, including Cell.

“Lynne is not only one of the premier RNA researchers in the world, and the head of our RNA Center here at the University of Rochester, she is a recognized organizer and promoter of all RNA research through the RNA Society,” said Robert Bambara, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Medical Center.

Maquat served as RNA Society President from 2006 to 2007. During that time she initiated post-doctoral and subsequently graduate student representatives as peer group leaders to help younger members become more engaged and active within the society. She started the Women in Science Dinner, which transformed into the RNA & Society Dinner, and organized multiple career mentoring workshops.

RNA Society meeting organizer is another activity on Maquat’s list. She organized the Society’s 2003 meeting in Vienna, Austria, and has been charged with planning the 2011 meeting in Kyoto, Japan.

“Lynne’s service in the RNA Society has been outstanding,” said Eric Phizicky, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester. “She has always been extremely active and worked hard to encourage people to participate in society activities. She has also spearheaded many initiatives specifically aimed at helping young scientists and women to advance in science.” 

The RNA Society was formed to encourage the sharing of experimental results and emerging concepts in RNA research. With more than 1,000 members, it aims to promote research in developmental biology, evolutionary biology, biochemistry, biomedical sciences, chemistry, genetics and virology as they relate to questions of RNA structure and function.

Maquat joined the University of Rochester Medical Center in 2000. In addition to serving as director of the Center for RNA Biology, Maquat also created and leads the University of Rochester Graduate Women in Science program. This was one of several programs that Maquat initiated as principle investigator of a National Institutes of Health graduate student training grant in cellular, biochemical and molecular sciences. 

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