Brandeis Magazine

Winter 2023/2024

Brandeis Researchers Earn the National Medal of Science

Eve Marder stands with President Joe Biden as she is awarded with the National Medal of Science
Eve Marder ’69 with President Joe Biden at the White House ceremony

Photo Credit: Ryan K. Morris

University Professor Eve Marder ’69 and Greg Petsko, professor of biochemistry and chemistry, emeritus, have each received the National Medal of Science, the highest recognition the United States bestows on scientists and engineers.

The awards were announced by President Joe Biden at a White House ceremony on Oct. 24.

“Both of these remarkable individuals have conducted significant scientific research that has had a major impact on repairing the world,” said President Ron Liebowitz, who attended the ceremony at the White House, “and both have trained generations of Brandeisians to go out and do the same. Eve and Greg have dedicated much of their careers to our university, and, for that, I am deeply grateful.”

Marder, the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience, was honored for “her visionary application of theoretical and experimental approaches to understanding neural circuits, and her inspirational advocacy of basic science,” according to the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation.

A member of the Brandeis faculty since joining as an assistant professor in 1978, Marder has revolutionized scientists’ understanding of neuronal circuit operation, including how neuromodulators, chemicals that alter the activity of neurons, affect an organism’s behavior. She studies a small network of 30 neurons in the nervous system of lobsters and crabs, which she realized early in her career could serve as a model for understanding the basic properties common to all brains.

She has received numerous recognitions, including the Gruber Prize, the Kavli Prize, and the National Academy of Sciences Award. She served as president of the Society for Neuroscience and was part of the working group for President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine.

In September, Marder received the 2023 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, awarded by The Rockefeller University to recognize the accomplishments of outstanding women scientists.

Petsko, a member of the Brandeis Board of Trustees, and a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was presented the National Medal of Science “for advancing our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s,” the NSTMF announced.

Greg Petsko and President Joe Biden
Greg Petsko receives his National Medal of Science

Photo Credit: Ryan K. Morris

“His role in founding structural enzymology, along with his commitment to educating the public about brain health, have empowered people around the world and raised the ambitions of our nation regarding aging with dignity,” the foundation added.

Petsko’s research focuses on the three-dimensional structures of proteins and their biochemical functions. His public lectures on the aging population and its implications for human health — including a TED Talk that has been viewed more than 900,000 times — attract a wide audience.

He has collaborated extensively with Dagmar Ringe, Brandeis professor of biochemistry and chemistry, emerita.

Petsko’s awards include the Sidhu Award and the Martin J. Buerger Award, both from the American Crystallographic Association; the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry, from the American Chemical Society; the Lynen Medal; and the Max Planck Research Award.

He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.