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Elliot Meyerowitz Receives Trinity College Dublin Dawson Prize in Genetics

Published: Monday, December 09, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, December 09, 2013
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World-renowned plant biologist honoured for his contribution to genetics at Trinity.

Leading plant geneticist, Dr Elliot Meyerowitz, has been awarded the 2013 Trinity College Dublin Dawson Prize in Genetics. He accepted the award at Trinity and delivered a public lecture that touched on the importance of plants and plant research for modern societies.

Dr Meyerowitz is a champion for openness and collaboration in scientific research and has been successful in making plant DNA available to a huge number of researchers, which has in turn increased our understanding of genetics.

Trinity’s Dawson Prize in Genetics has been awarded since 2006 to geneticists of international prominence. The prize, a gold miniature of the sculpture ‘The Double Helix’ by Brian King, was established by a gift from founder of the Department of Genetics at Trinity, George Dawson (1927-2004). In addition to the public lecture, recipients spend a day in discussion with sophister and graduate students of Trinity’s Smurfit Institute of Genetics.

Dr Meyerowitz said: “I'm honoured to be awarded the Dawson Prize, and gratified that research with plants is being honoured.  Plants feed us, house us, clothe us, and even make the air that we breathe.  It is important to know as much about them as we can learn, and the award of the Dawson Prize for advances in plant biology will advance public recognition of this critical and interesting scientific field.”

In his public lecture, entitled ‘How Plants Grow: Molecules, Cells and Computers,’ Dr Meyerowitz discussed the value of plant research in a world with a growing population and a need for developing agricultural practices. He then described how modern computer technology provides scientists with the opportunity to try to unravel the many unsolved mysteries of plant growth and development.

Dr Meyerowitz has made many important contributions to the field of genetics. He solved the mystery of how plants create specific leaf and flower patterns, which had perplexed researchers for more than a century, and his lab was successful in finding the first ever receptor for a plant hormone. He was instrumental in promoting the small flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana as a ‘model organism’ used by researchers investigating plant biology and genetics across the globe. He also spearheaded the push that made it the first plant to have its entire genome sequenced.

“Elliot M. Meyerowitz is among the world's most influential geneticists and plant biologists,” said Professor of Neurogenetics at Trinity, Mani Ramaswami, who introduced Dr Meyerowitz’s public lecture. 

“An uncompromising intellect and expert on many subjects, Meyerowitz has, as a scientist, made path-breaking contributions to multiple fields. As a leader, he has guided institutions and international science policy, and as a teacher and individual, he has mentored and created a galaxy of younger stars in these fields. His visit was a proud occasion for Trinity College Dublin and Ireland.”

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