MIT researcher Susan Lundquist honored at Rosenstiel award ceremony

The world-renowned biologist, who died last year, was remembered as a great colleague, mentor and friend.

Angelika Amon, the Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor of Cancer Research at MIT.Photo: Heratch Ekmekjian

Amon delivers her remarks at the ceremony.

Pioneering biologist Susan Lindquist was posthumously honored as a "terrific mentor," "relentless risk-taker" and "truly a superwoman" at a ceremony on March 22 to award her the 46th Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research.

Lindquist, who died last October, was Professor of Biology and a member of the Whitehead Institute at MIT and a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Her research focused on the mechanisms of protein folding and the severe consequences of protein misfolding that are manifest in cancer, neurodegeneration and infectious disease.

"She knew about the award and was very pleased," said James Haber, the director of the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, in his opening remarks. "Today we are gathered to celebrate the impact of Susan's work on many fields of science."

As part of the ceremony, three of her former postdoctoral fellows, now faculty members at Stanford, University of Toronto and Harvard Medical School, presented research connected to Lindquist's own scientific breakthroughs. Lindquist was also memorialized by her colleague and friend, Angelika Amon, the Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor of Cancer Research at MIT.

"It was her attention to detail, keen logic and joy of science that shaped me and all of us," Amon said.

Amon recalled Lindquist's decision early in her career to switch from studying fruit flies to yeast as a way of researching neurodegenerative diseases. Fruit flies were thought better models for understanding such illnesses. "When I first heard she was going to study yeast, I though this was the craziest thing I'd ever heard," Amon said. "But she persisted and made groundbreaking discoveries... She proved all of us initial doubters wrong."

Amon said Lindquist was motivated by "a genuine desire to make people's lives better." It was her aunt's dementia, Amon said, that motivated her to study neurodegenerative diseases. When she learned her daughter's classmate's mother had Huntington's disease, she grew interested in researching that. "Sue clearly had great empathy and it really dictated the way she did her science," Amon said. 

Past Rosenstiel Award winners include recent Nobel laureates Yoshinori Ohsumi, Shinya Yamanaka, John Gurdon and Jules Hoffman.

Categories: Research, Science and Technology

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage