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Thomas R. Cech

Thomas R. CechAKA Thomas Robert Cech

Born: 8-Dec-1947
Birthplace: Chicago, IL

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Proved enzyme role of RNA

In a 1982 experiment with the protozoa Tetrahymena thermophilia, biochemist Thomas R. Cech discovered that ribonucleic acid (RNA) could act as its own catalyst, stimulating its own chemical reactions. Until then, scientists had believed that RNA was only a carrier of genetic information, so Cech and his team spent the next year double-checking and scrutinizing their results for a hidden protein "contaminant". His original finding was startling but eventually proven correct, showing that RNA can trigger the biological reactions previously thought to be catalyzed solely by proteins. Cech shared the 1989 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Sidney Altman, whose separate research led to the same discovery almost concurrently.

Father: Robert Franklin Cech (physician)
Mother: Annette Marie Cerveny (homemaker)
Sister: Barbara
Brother: Richard
Wife: Carol Lynn Martinson (biochemist, m. 1970, two daughters)
Daughter: Allison (b. 1982)
Daughter: Jennifer (b. 1986)

    University: BA Chemistry, Grinnell College (1970)
    University: PhD Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley (1975)
    Scholar: Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1975-77)
    Teacher: University of Colorado (1978-83)
    Professor: Biochemistry, Biophysics and Genetics, University of Colorado (1983-)

    ACS Pfizer Award 1985
    Guggenheim Fellowship 1985
    NAS Award in Molecular Biology 1987
    Heineken Prize for Medicine 1988
    Lasker Award 1988
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1989 (with Sidney Altman)
    National Medal of Science 1995
    CHF Othmer Gold Medal 2007
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (2008-)
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute President (2000-08)
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (1988-2000)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1988
    American Cancer Society
    National Academy of Sciences 1987
    National Cancer Institute Fellowship, 1975-77
    Obama for America
    Czech Ancestry Paternal

Author of books:
The RNA World: The Nature of Modern RNA Suggests a Prebiotic RNA World (1993, with John F. Atkins, Raymond F. Gesteland)
RNA Worlds: From Life's Origins to Diversity in Gene Regulation (2011, with John F. Atkins, Raymond F. Gesteland)


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