De La Salle University conferred upon 2009 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry Professor Ada Yonath by awarding her an honorary degree in science last March 2 at the DLSU Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium, coinciding with Bridges lecture she delivered on campus.
Best known for her pioneering work on the structure and atomic workings of the ribosome, the cell’s “protein factory,” the esteemed scientist also established the first protein crystallography laboratory in Israel. Prof. Yonath has generated 3D models that show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome and how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.
In addition, she introduced a novel technique called cryo bio-crystallography that “revolutionized the field of structural biology and has given it wide-ranging applications, particularly in the development and design of new antibiotics.” She is also the first woman from the Middle East to win the Nobel Prize in science and the first woman in 45 years to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Prof. Yonath received her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and her master’s degree in Biochemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1962 and 1964, respectively. She earned her PhD in X-Ray Crystallography at the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1968.
She held postdoctoral positions in Carnegie Mellon University in 1969 and MIT in 1970, where she worked with 1976 Chemistry Nobel Laureate William N. Lipscomb, Jr. of Harvard University.
In addition, Prof. Yonath was also visiting professor at the University of Chicago, visiting scientist at the Heinz-Günter Wittmann, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, and head of a Max-Planck Research Unit at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg while continuing her research activities at the Weizmann Institute of Science, where she was the holder of the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professorial Chair.
The Bridges lecture series is an event organized by both the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation and DLSU and, over the years, has included celebrated individuals such as former New York City Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, Nobel Laureate for Physics David Jonathan Gross, Nobel Laureate for Economics Robert Mundell, former Timor-Leste President and Nobel Laureate for Peace Jose Ramos-Horta, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Nobel Laureate for Medicine Torsten Wiesel, and former President of Poland and Nobel Laureate for Peace Lech Walesa.