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Harvard Professor Wins Biomedical Science Award

University Hall houses administrative offices.
University Hall houses administrative offices. By Naomi S. Castellon-Perez
By Julia A. Kendall, Contributing Writer

Rockefeller University named Harvard Chemistry Professor Xiaowei Zhuang as the 2019 recipient of the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize — an international award celebrating women in biomedical science — according to a press release Tuesday.

The university, a graduate biomedical research institute in New York, awarded Zhuang the prize for her work on the development of super-resolution and genome-scale imaging techniques. Through her work, she found new structures in cells, clarified molecular processes, and discovered new types of neurons.

Charles M. Lieber, chair of the Harvard chemistry and chemical biology department, wrote in an email Thursday that Zhuang is “fearless” and someone who he would “bet on” to achieve great things in the future.

“Professor Zhuang is an amazing scientist in terms of creativity, leadership and determination,” Lieber wrote. “She has been a world leader in both areas cited by the award – super-resolution imaging and single cell genomic imaging – both in terms [of] pioneering the new methodologies and using them.”

Zhuang did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Late Rockefeller professor Paul Greengard and his wife, Ursula von Rydingsvard, created the award in 2004. Greengard advocated for gender equality in science and donated the prize money from his 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine to establish an annual award celebrating women in science. The prize is named after his mother.

Past award recipients include Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carolyn W. Greider, who both went on to win the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine after being jointly awarded the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize in 2008.

Zhuang’s research is currently conducted out of her lab, Zhuang Research Lab, where she works alongside post-doctoral fellows and graduate students. Her current work focuses on expanding imaging methods and applying them to problems of biomedical interest.

Praising her work, Lieber also pointed out her lasting effect on the scientific community.

“I expert [sic] her to be a guiding light to many in science world wide for years to come…her impact is far beyond the Chemistry department and Harvard University,” Lieber wrote. “It is my good fortune/honor to have Professor Zhuang as a colleague and friend, and I believe the university should be thankful to have her as a member of the community.”

The Rockefeller University will present Zhuang with the award during a ceremony on Nov. 19 at the Caspary Auditorium in New York City. She will also receive $100,000 as part of the prize.

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