Susan Lindquist

This WiSE Wednesday we pay tribute to a scientist, entrepreneur, leader, and role model we tragically lost last week. While it is impossible to give justice to all of Susan Lindquist’s accomplishments in a short vignette, it would be more of an injustice not to try, so here goes. . . Susan was born in 1949 and studied microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before going on to receive a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard. Throughout her highly successful academic career at the University of Chicago, MIT, and the Whitehead Institute she made important discoveries about protein folding, including the potential for this mechanism to serve as an evolutionary process. One of her most significant contributions to biomedical science was the establishment of an experimental system using yeast to study the protein misfolding that underlies many neurodegenerative diseases. Her impressive research and leadership style were recognized by the Whitehead Institute, which appointed her its Director in 2001, making her one of the first women to head a major independent research institution in the US. Her accomplishments were also recognized by numerous academic societies and award-granting institutions including the Genetics Society of America and the National Academy of Sciences. Even the White House was impressed by her – she was awarded our country’s highest scientific award, the National Medal of Science, in 2010. Her aspirations, however, were not restricted to academia: she co-founded or founded multiple biomedical companies devoted to advancing health. Susan passed away from cancer last Thursday, but her legacy will live on through the work of the more than 115 young scientists she directly helped train, as well as the countless others she has inspired.

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