Former Science Editor-in-Chief Wins Lasker Achievement Award

Bruce Alberts, former editor-in-chief of Science, to be presented the 2016 Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science at New York ceremony on 23 Sept. | Christopher Reiger

Bruce Alberts, former editor-in-chief of Science, received the 2016 Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science, recognizing his contributions to DNA replication research and his advocacy for improved science education on a global scale.

The award was announced by the Lasker Foundation on 13 Sept. and will be presented to Alberts on 23 Sept., at the Pierre Hotel in New York.

Alberts’ work has helped scientists better understand how cells copy DNA, as well as other mechanisms within those cells that execute important physiological functions.

He said that his proudest achievement “was discovering the T4 gene 32 protein and its function in 1970 – the discovery of the single-strand DNA binding proteins now known to be critical for every cell.”

Alberts, who served as the editor-in-chief of Science from 2008 to 2013, said his main goal at the journal was “to make scientists more informed about and thereby much more engaged in a great challenge for our time – making a science of education.”

Melissa McCartney, a project director in AAAS’ Education and Human Resources department, worked closely with Alberts during his time at Science. She described him as a skilled motivator with infectious energy.

“When you’re around him, you just want to work hard,” McCartney said.

McCartney said that Alberts approached her with the idea that the journal Science should be freely available in schools. This evolved into Science in the Classroom,” a project which provides annotated research papers and teaching materials aimed at helping students learn through inquiry instead of memorization.

“He’s really our biggest champion,” McCartney said. “He talks about [the project] whenever he gets the chance, spreading the word.”

Biology enthusiasts often approached Alberts at conferences, asking him to sign their copies of Molecular Biology of the Cell, the textbook he co-authored. | Stephen Waldron/AAAS

Alberts also worked with Monica Bradford, executive editor of Science, throughout his tenure at the journal. Bradford said that he encouraged teamwork and innovation.

“He was constantly open to new ideas and rethinking things,” Bradford said.

Before coming to Science, Alberts served as president of the National Academy of Sciences from 1993 until 2005.

After leaving the journal, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama in 2014.

McCartney recalled attending several conferences with Alberts and being approached by people asking that he sign their copies of Molecular Biology of the Cell, the textbook he co-authored.

“He’s treated like a rock star,” McCartney said.

Alison Crawford, managing producer in the AAAS Digital Media department, worked alongside Alberts as his executive assistant from 2010 until 2013. She said that he looms large in the science education community and believes that his work will have a lasting impact.

“I think my niece and nephews will one day gain a better science education because of Bruce’s efforts,” Crawford said.

Alberts currently serves as the Chancellor’s Leadership Chair in Biochemistry and Biophysics for Science and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

[Associated image credit: Christopher Reiger]