Release Date: March 19, 2010
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo and Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute are cosponsoring a visit April 8-9 from the world-renowned scientist who was awarded the most recent Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Ada E. Yonath, PhD, 2009 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, will deliver two scientific talks while in Buffalo: on April 8 at 11 a.m. at HWI, she will discuss "The Stunning Ribosome Architecture and Hints on its Origin." On April 9, at 4:15 p.m. she will discuss "Antibiotics Targeting the Ribosome" at UB as the 2010 Howard Tieckelmann Memorial Lecturer; the program will be held in 225 Natural Sciences Complex on the UB North Campus.
Yonath is the fourth woman ever, and the first in 40 years, to receive chemistry's highest international honor.
In her talks at UB and HWI, she will discuss how her research determining the structure of the cell's colossal "protein factory" called the ribosome, is helping scientists better understand the ribosome's role in translating the genetic code into proteins. She also will discuss how her findings are creating new opportunities for developing novel antibiotics that target the ribosomes of pathogens.
Members of the media are invited to attend a media briefing, followed by a roundtable discussion, where Yonath will share her inspirational story of achievement with the next generation of scientists, currently studying at UB and HWI. Both the briefing and the roundtable will take place April 8 at 4:30 p.m. in the Center for the Arts atrium. One-on-one interviews with Yonath also will be available upon request.
Yonath is visiting UB and HWI primarily because of her close personal and professional relationship with crystallographers in Buffalo, who are themselves internationally renowned in the field of X-ray crystallography, a technique in which molecular structures are revealed by the diffraction patterns of X-rays as they "bounce" off of molecules.
"We are extremely fortunate to be able to host this visit from Dr. Yonath," says Philip Coppens, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Henry M. Woodburn Chair in the UB Department of Chemistry. Coppens was a colleague of Yonath's at the Weizmann Institute when he was a junior staff scientist and she was a new PhD student; they have remained in contact over the years.
"Her work has been crucial to determining the function of a central class of the 'machines of life.' She pioneered ribosome crystallography in the late 1970s at a time when such a project on a multi-protein plus ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecular machine was considered completely unrealistic, far beyond the capabilities of the techniques available then," he says. "Everyone thought it was hopeless when she started."
When Yonath began her research, the structures of only a few individual protein molecules had ever been determined. The ribosome, the tremendously complex "machine" that manufactures proteins inside of cells contains as many as 56 protein molecules and 4,500 nucleotides, with a total molecular weight several million times that of the hydrogen atom.
Yonath has applied the structural knowledge of the full three-dimensional structure to identify the detailed physiological action of the ribosome at the atomic level. She and her colleagues also have shown how antibiotics can interfere with the action of ribosomes of disease-causing pathogens.
Currently the director of the Kimmelman Center for Molecular Assemblies at the Weizmann Institute, she is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
The 2010 Tieckelmann Memorial Lecture is sponsored by UB's Department of Chemistry and co-sponsored by the Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute, the UB Department of Biological Sciences and the UB Office of the Vice President for Research Distinguished Lecture Series. The series honors the late Howard Tieckelmann, a highly respected and beloved former faculty member and department chair. The Howard Tieckelmann Memorial Lecture series is made possible by donations from alumni of the UB Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.