UW alumnus Jeffrey C. Hall awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute has awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall — an alumnus of the University of Washington — along with Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young “for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm,” according to an announcement Monday morning.

Hall, Rosbash and Young made seminal discoveries about the genetic and molecular underpinnings of biological clocks, which keep the rhythms of cells and organisms in sync with our planet’s 24-hour rotation period.

Hall was born in 1945 and earned a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College in Massachusetts. He earned his doctoral degree from the UW in 1971. Hall’s doctoral advisor was Laurence Sandler in the Department of Genetics, and he was also mentored by Herschel Roman. The Department of Genetics merged with the Department of Molecular Biotechnology in 2001 to form the Department of Genome Sciences.

Following his graduation from UW, Hall worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology, studying under Seymour Benzer. He spent much of his subsequent career at Brandeis University, where he was a professor of biology until his retirement. Hall was also an adjunct professor at the University of Maine from 2004 to 2012. He lives in Maine.

“The extraordinary work of Jeff and his colleagues has enormous implications not only for human health but for increasing our understanding of all kinds of biological organisms,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said. “We are so proud to call Jeff an alumnus and to have played a part in his academic journey. We offer him warm congratulations on this highest recognition of his great contributions to knowledge and discovery.”

The laureates conducted genetic and molecular research on circadian rhythms in fruit flies, a common laboratory organism. According to the Nobel Assembly:

“Using fruit flies as a model organism, this year’s Nobel laureates isolated a gene that controls the normal daily biological rhythm. They showed that this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night, and is then degraded during the day. Subsequently, they identified additional protein components of this machinery, exposing the mechanism governing the self-sustaining clockwork inside the cell. We now recognize that biological clocks function by the same principles in cells of other multicellular organisms, including humans.”

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