Nobel Laureates share medals with Perot Museum of Nature and Science visitors
By Deborah Wormser
All five Nobel Prize medals awarded to faculty members of UT Southwestern Medical Center will be featured together at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science as soon as the museum can expand its display in the Being Human Hall.
“Our hope is that these esteemed medals will inspire our young visitors to pursue science careers and make their own life-changing discoveries,” said Eugene McDermott CEO Nicole Small.
The Perot Museum, which opened Dec. 1, 2012, hosted 1 million visitors in its first eight months of operation.
Dr. Alfred Gilman, Chairman Emeritus of Pharmacology, presented his 1994 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine medal to the museum in 2012. UT Southwestern’s four other Nobel Laureates followed suit at an Oct. 25 ceremony.
Three Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine were at the ceremony: Dr. Michael Brown and co-recipient Dr. Joseph Goldstein (1985), along with Dr. Bruce A. Beutler (2011). They also presented museum officials with the medal for the 1988 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on behalf of Dr. Johann Deisenhofer, Professor of Biophysics in the Cecil H. and Ida Green Comprehensive Center for Molecular, Computational, and Systems Biology, who was unable to attend.
Those four medals will be added to the two medals currently on display: Dr. Gilman’s medal and the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize medal presented to the late Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, known as the father of the green revolution for his work increasing global crop yields.
In addition to inspiring future scientists, it is hoped the exhibit will serve as a symbol of the museum’s strong partnership with UT Southwestern, museum officials said.
After the event, Dr. J. Gregory Fitz, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost and Dean of UT Southwestern Medical School, praised each of the scientists for their “amazing act of generosity” in sharing their medals in a place where they can inspire so many budding scientists.
Drs. Goldstein and Brown were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery of the basic mechanisms of cholesterol metabolism, which led to the development of the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
“These prizes are a testimony to the electric atmosphere of discovery that was built in our city, thanks to the far-sightedness of our community leaders – some of the same people who helped build the magnificent Perot Museum,” they said in a joint statement, adding that they hope the exhibit will inspire young people to embark on their own adventures in science.
Dr. Beutler, Director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense, noted that although prestigious prizes can be inspiring, the greatest motivator should be the desire to answer big questions. Wondering how the body recognizes and responds during the first moments of infection led him to discover a family of receptors that allow mammals to sense infections and trigger a powerful inflammatory response.
“Such questions occur to those who have learned about the natural world, and the Perot Museum is an excellent place to begin acquiring such knowledge,” Dr. Beutler said.
All of UT Southwestern’s Nobel Laureates are Regental Professors. In addition to being the medical center’s first Nobel Laureates, Dr. Brown is also Director of the Erik Jonsson Center for Research in Molecular Genetics and Human Disease, and Co-Director of the Medical Scientist Training Program. Dr. Goldstein is Chairman of Molecular Genetics.
Dr. Deisenhofer received the Nobel Prize for using X-ray crystallography to describe the 3-D structure of a protein molecule that helped explain photosynthesis.
Dr. Gilman was recognized for his discovery of G proteins, research that has led to a more complete understanding of how cells receive signals and respond to external stimuli. Dr. Gilman retired from UT Southwestern in 2009. In addition to being the first Chief Scientific Officer of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, Dr. Gilman previously served as Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost, and Dean of the medical school.
Dr. Beutler holds the Raymond and Ellen Willie Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, in Honor of Laverne and Raymond Willie Sr.
Dr. Brown holds the W.A. (Monty) Moncrief Distinguished Chair in Cholesterol and Arteriosclerosis Research, and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine.
Dr. Deisenhofer holds the Virginia and Edward Linthicum Distinguished Chair in Biomolecular Science.
Dr. Fitz holds the Nadine and Tom Craddick Distinguished Chair in Medical Science, and the Atticus James Gill, M.D., Chair in Medical Science.
Dr. Goldstein holds the Julie and Louis A. Beecherl Jr. Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Research, and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine.