It's a big week for developmental biologist Lucy Shapiro, PhD.
On Friday, she will be awarded the National Medal of Science - an honor often referred to as "America's Nobel Prize." Shapiro is being recognized not only for her research, but also for her active involvement in national policy. As I wrote in a story in today's Inside Stanford Medicine:
In the past few years, [Shapiro has] garnered an impressive list of national and international awards for her work on understanding how the genetic circuitry of the bacterial cell functions in time and space to orchestrate a cell division that yields two unique cells — the fundamental basis of stem cell function and the generation of diversity in the living world. Her insights helped launch the field of systems biology and have led to the development of novel antibacterial and antifungal drugs.
I had the privilege of interviewing Shapiro and hearing first hand about her research and her unique journey from an undergraduate studying the fine arts (and Dante!) to the lab bench and even the White House:
Along the way, Shapiro has become an outspoken resource for politicians and policymakers struggling with the growing threat of emerging infectious diseases and the reality of bioterrorism in an age when scientific information — and people — flow much more quickly and freely across international borders than ever before. She served in an advisory role in the Clinton administration and second Bush administration, and is now a member of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
"As my research progressed, I felt that I was in a position where I could, in fact, influence policy," said Shapiro. "I had done the basic science that would allow me to understand how bacteria work, and I felt the responsibility to educate and inform the public about what I began to perceive as a growing threat. Our legislators and our government leaders have to know what's really going on. So I've kind of been thrust into a position as a spokesperson for these issues."
Congratulations Dr. Shapiro!
Previously: New method may speed identification of antibiotic targets
Photo by Justin Lewis