Science Market Update

UC Berkeley Biophysicist Wins $100K Vilcek Biomedical Science Award for Research

Posted by Jaimee Saliba on Thu, Feb 23, 2012

biomedical science awardDr. Carlos Bustamante came to the United States from Peru on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1975.  He studied and received his degree at the University of California Berkeley, where he worked with his mentor, Ignacio Tinoco, in Biophysics.  He returned to UC Berkeley as a professor of Molecular and Cell Biology in 1998 and has continued his groundbreaking work on single-molecule manipulation studies as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator leading a vibrant lab group with branches in the QB3 Institute, Berkeley Lab (LBNL), and the Physics Department at UC Berkeley. Now Dr. Bustamante is being honored with the 2012 Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science, which is awarded each year to an outstanding foreign-born scientist working in the US.  The honor is accompanied by $100,000 and a unique trophy (see right, courtesy of the Vilcek Foundation).


The Department of Molecular & Cell Biology at UCB is organized into five divisions:

-Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology (Prof. Bustamante's area)

-Cell and Developmental Biology

-Genetics, Genomics and Development

-Immunology and Pathogenesis

-Neurobiology

The California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) is a collaborative effort between the state of California, private industry, venture capital, and the University of California campuses at Berkeley, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, designed to stimulate discovery at the intersection of the physical and biological sciences and move those discoveries into development. (See an earlier blog of ours on QB3 and genomics research.)

Professor Bustamante is also a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where he heads the Advanced Microscopies Department within the Physical Biosciences Division. His research on Molecular Machines represents a new paradigm for understanding how cells function.  His colleague in this endeavor, Dr. Eva Nogales, has also recently been in the news for a breakthrough in understanding the mechanics of proteasomes (read our blog on the subject).

In a 2007 interview for BioTechniques, Professor Bustamante said this about his work:

Science is most gratifying in that instant when you figure out something through your reason, your experiments, and you realize that it's something that nobody else knows. To do that you need faith—faith in the scientific method and in the scientific act. Nature is not malicious, it is willing to give up its secrets.

The Vilcek Prize in the Biomedical Sciences is awarded each year to a scientist of Dr. Bustamante's caliber who has not only done extraordinary work in his field, but has done it as an immigrant to the United States.  To put this achievement in perspective, it's worth mentioning that a second Vilcek Award is also given annually in a field of the Arts.  This year's Arts winner (in Dance) is none other than Mikhail Baryshnikov, so Dr. Bustamante will be in good company at the awards ceremony in Manhattan this spring.  Also to be honored are early-career Creative Promise winners Alice Ting, PhD, originally from Taiwan and now working in Chemistry at MIT; and Michel Kouakou, a dancer and Ivory Coast native who now teaches dance at UCLA.

uc berkeley molecular research

[Dr. Bustamante at a going away party for a former PhD candidate and member of his lab, Dr. Sophie Dumont, now head of her own lab at Harvard Medical (Photo courtesy of the Bustamante Lab website)]

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Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. will be holding its 15th Annual Berkeley BioResearch Product Faire event on the UCB campus on June 6, 2012. This networking opportunity brings life science researchers together with laboratory equipment suppliers to discuss the latest technologies in lab science. For information on exhibiting, click below:

 ucb researchIf you are interested  in attending the UC Berkeley event  as an exhibitor or researcher register here.

Tags: Bioscience research, University of California Berkeley, cell biology, Microscopy, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Southwest, California, National Lab

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