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Stephen Harrison Wins Welch Award

by Linda Wang
June 29, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 26

Credit: Bachrach Studios
Photograph of Stephen Harrison, a professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology and of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
Credit: Bachrach Studios

For his groundbreaking work at the intersection of chemistry and biology, Stephen C. Harrison, a professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology and of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, will receive the 2015 Welch Award in Chemistry.

The Welch Foundation, based in Houston, grants the $300,000 award annually to honor lifetime achievement in basic research in chemistry.

Harrison studies complex macromolecular structures such as proteins and nucleic acids to understand their biological functions.

“Harrison has transformed our understanding of large macromolecular assemblies that are essential to the chemistry of life,” says Peter B. Dervan, chair of the Welch Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. “He has pioneered new methods in data collection and structure determination, tackling increasingly complex molecules. His work has had implications for numerous fields, including virology, DNA transcriptional regulation, signal transduction, vesicular trafficking, and cell division.”

As this year’s Welch awardee, Harrison says he is particularly pleased to be recognized as a chemist. “Structural biologists are translators; we seek to describe the phenomena of cell biology in the language of chemistry. So I am both thrilled and somewhat awed to find myself considered a real practitioner of chemistry and included in a succession of remarkable previous awardees,” he says.

Linda Wang compiles this section. Announcements of awards may be sent to


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