Ursinus to Bestow Honorary Degree on Director Susan Lindquist

November 5, 2002

Tags: Lindquist LabAwards + Announcements

COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. — Known for groundbreaking work in the study of the stress response and protein folding, Susan L. Lindquist, the Director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, will receive an honorary degree from Ursinus College on Nov. 12, 2002.

"We are honored to have Dr. Lindquist on campus," said Judith Levy, Dean of the College and a professor of chemistry. "She is a strong supporter of science education and believes in proactive efforts to attract women into science. Her pioneering work on how stress tolerance, neurodegenerative disease, and heredity can be governed by changes in protein conformation is helping to provide a biochemical framework for understanding biological mysteries." Levy noted that during her two-day campus visit, Lindquist will be meeting with small groups of Ursinus biology, chemistry, and biochemistry students.

During the formal program, Ursinus President John Strassburger will bestow upon Lindquist an honorary Doctor of Sciences degree. Lindquist will give a talk titled, "From Mad Cows to ‘Psi-Chotic’ Yeast: Unexpected Lessons in Biology and Genetics," describing her pioneering work with prion proteins.

When these special proteins misfold, they cause other normal proteins to do the same–much like a bad apple ruining the whole barrel. In yeast such protein folding changes can be useful, helping metabolism for instance. In animals, the misfolded proteins can have devastating effects, such as mad cow disease and Creutzfedt-Jakob disease in humans. The 4 p.m. talk in Pfahler Auditorium is open to the public.

Lindquist’s renowned research provided the definitive evidence that certain physical traits may be transmitted entirely by misfolded proteins without any changes in DNA or RNA. Other research in the Lindquist lab has shown that plants and animals have a way to buffer what may be harmful genetic changes so they are not physically expressed. Environmental stress can then reveal the hidden genetic variation, resulting in novel traits that may provide an alternative to genetic modification of crops and a way for organisms to evolve.

Lindquist came to the Whitehead Institute in 2001 from the University of Chicago where she was the Albert D. Lasker Professor of Medical Sciences in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, and an Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She received her PhD in Biology from Harvard University in 1976, going to the University of Chicago as an American Cancer Society Post-doctoral Fellow before joining the faculty there in 1977. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996 and the National Academy of Sciences in 1997, the same year she became a Fellow in American Academy of Microbiology. In 2000, she was awarded the Novartis Drew Award in Biomedical Research.

The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research is a non-profit, independent research and educational institution with pathfinding programs in cancer and AIDS research, structural biology, genetics, infectious disease research, developmental biology, and transgenic science. Its mission is to improve human health and welfare and extend the boundaries of knowledge for future generations. The Whitehead is affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in its teaching activities but is independent in its governance, finances, and research programs. The Whitehead Institute is an international leader in the Human Genome Project, the effort to identify all of the DNA letters that make up the instructions for a human being. The Institute’s alumni have gone on to become scientific leaders at prestigious institutions around the country.

Ursinus College, founded in 1869, is a highly selective, nationally ranked, independent coeducational liberal arts college, located on a scenic, wooded 165-acre campus 28 miles from Center city Philadelphia. Known for quality programs in the arts and sciences, Ursinus is one of 11 members of the Centennial Conference, along with Swarthmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr colleges, and one of only 8 percent of U.S. colleges to possess a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society.

Whitehead Institute is a world-renowned non-profit research institution dedicated to improving human health through basic biomedical research.
Wholly independent in its governance, finances, and research programs, Whitehead shares a close affiliation with Massachusetts Institute of Technology
through its faculty, who hold joint MIT appointments.

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