URMC Biochemistry Professor Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Lynne E. Maquat Receives Top Scientific Honor

May 05, 2011

Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D.

University of Rochester Medical Center Professor Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D. has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences – one of the highest honors possible for any scientist – for her exceptional work in the field of RNA biology. Maquat will be inducted next April with 71 other newly elected members during the academy’s 149th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Maquat, the J. Lowell Orbison Chair and Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics and director of the University of Rochester Center for RNA Biology, is known around the world for her research on nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, a cellular mechanism that derails the production of unwanted proteins in the body that can disrupt normal processes and initiate disease. This mechanism removes flawed RNA molecules that, if left intact, would lead to the creation of such proteins.

Maquat has made many major discoveries in this field and is considered the uncontested pioneer on the subject. Her work has been widely published in journals such as Cell and Nature.

“Dr. Maquat is an outstanding researcher who sets very high standards for her science, regularly publishing in the most prestigious journals, training highly successful research fellows and speaking across the country and around the world about her work,” said Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center. “She is one of the premier RNA scientists in the world and we’re extremely proud that she is a part of our institution and has been recognized with this tremendous honor.”

Upon her induction in April 2012, Maquat will be at least the fourteenth University faculty member elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and the fourth from the Medical Center. In addition to Maquat, academy members from the University of Rochester include Fred Sherman, also a faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Richard Eisenberg, Porter Anderson, Elissa Newport, Esther Conwell, John Huizenga, Richard Fenno Jr., Ronald W. Jones, Rene Millon, Leonard Mandel, Lionel McKenzie, Marshall Gates and Wallace Fenn.

“Election to the National Academy of Sciences is something every scientist aspires to, but few achieve. Dr. Maquat is very well deserving of this outstanding achievement and joins an elite group of individuals from Rochester who have also accomplished great things in their respective areas of science,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine & Dentistry.

“Research science is a very exciting and, at the same time, very humbling undertaking.  Discovering new cellular pathways and clues to the molecular basis of human disease is absolutely wonderful, but there is so much to know and to learn along the way and the process is very labor-intensive,” noted Maquat. “Over the course of my career I’ve worked hard, read widely and followed my instincts. I asked questions I thought were important, obtained data using more than one experimental approach, and probed a few questions deeply rather than many questions superficially in any one project.”

According to Maquat, “My accomplishments would not have been possible without years and years of wonderfully committed and talented graduate students and post-docs in my laboratory.”    

Maquat joined the University of Rochester Medical Center in 2000, after spending 18 years at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. 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, one of several programs she initiated as principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health graduate student training grant in cellular, biochemical and molecular sciences. 

Maquat has been a member of the RNA Society since its formation in 1993, and was honored with the society’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Service last year. She was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006. 

“Dr. Maquat is an extremely active and productive researcher, and with the enthusiastic and steadfast support of the Medical Center generates some of the finest high quality science,” said Robert Bambara, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. “As a world-class academic institution, it is important that we continue to excel not only in clinical research, but in basic research as well. Dr. Maquat exemplifies our strength in the fundamental sciences and the great impact such research can have.”

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the promotion of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation that calls on the academy to be an official advisor to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology. For the full list of newly elected members, visit http://www.nasonline.org/site/PageServer?pagename=News_May_3_2011_member_election.

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