Nobel awards for research pioneers

Two scientists with University links are among the winners of the 2017 Nobel Prizes.

They join the growing ranks of laureates who have an Edinburgh connection.

The awards bring to 23 the number of people with links to the university who have won Nobel prizes.

Dr Richard Henderson, winner of a Nobel Prize for Chemistry, is an alumnus and honorary graduate of Edinburgh.

Professor Michael Rosbash, winner of a prize for Physiology or Medicine, was a researcher at Edinburgh in the early 1970s.

Biological imaging

Dr Henderson is leader of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

He was jointly awarded the 2017 Chemistry Nobel with Professor Jacques Dubochet of the University of Lausanne and Professor Joachim Frank of Columbia University, New York, US.

Their prize was made for developing cryo-electron microscopy, which has enabled high-resolution imaging of biomolecules in solution.

Following their developments, scientists can routinely produce three-dimensional structures of biomolecules.

Dr Henderson graduated with a degree in Physics from Edinburgh in 1966 and received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Edinburgh in 2008.

In 1990, Dr Henderson used an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein with atomic resolution.

His breakthrough proved the potential of electron microscopes.

Daily cycles

Professor Rosbash, currently of Brandeis University in Waltham, US, is one of three scientists recognised for their work in so-called circadian rhythms.

He shares the 2017 prize with Professor Jeffrey Hall, also of Brandeis, and Professor Michael Young of Rockefeller University.

Their award was made for their discoveries of the molecular mechanisms behind circadian rhythms – the 24-hour cycle that controls sleeping, waking, and other basic processes in people and other living things.

Professor Rosbash undertook a fellowship in genetics at Edinburgh in the early 1970s, before moving to Brandeis in 1974.

He holds the Peter Gruber Endowed Chair in Neuroscience at the institution.  

[I spent] three wonderful post-doc years in Edinburgh, from the personal as well as the professional point of view. I loved the city as well as the UK, and my post-doc mentor John Bishop taught me a lot.

Professor Michael Rosbash


These laureates unravelled the first, coherent molecular mechanism for a circadian clock, and unquestionably led this field.

Professor Andrew MillarSchool of Biological Sciences


We are delighted at the news of these Nobel Prize awards and congratulate Professor Michael Rosbach and Dr Richard Henderson on their achievements. The University of Edinburgh can be justifiably proud that both have built upon their experiences at this University to reach the very top of their professions.

Professor Sir Timothy O'SheaPrincipal and Vice-Chancellor

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