Hebrew University Pays Tribute to `One of Its Own’ - Nobel Prize Winner Roger Kornberg

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[img_assist|nid=73|title=Roger Kornberg|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=265|height=192]The Hebrew University of Jerusalem this week paid tribute to Prof. Roger Kornberg, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry for 2006, at a reception that attracted an overflow audience of colleagues, students, and local and international media.

Kornberg was hailed as "one of our own" by university officials. "Roger, we’re proud of you," said Prof. Ioav Cabanchik, head of the university’s Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, where the reception was held. "You’re part of us, and we’re part of you," he declared.

Kornberg is a professor of structural biology at Stanford University, However, he has been a visiting professor at the Hebrew University since 1986, where he teaches and conducts research for four months every year in the Department of Biological Chemistry in the Institute of Life Sciences. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University in 2001.

Also paying tribute to Kornberg and his long association with the Hebrew University were President Prof. Menachem Magidor and Dean of the Faculty of Sciences Prof. Hermona Soreq. Israeli Minister of Science, Culture and Sport Ophir Pines-Paz delivered greetings.

In remarks to the audience, Kornberg said that "my years at the Hebrew University have been crucial to my success." He especially cited the role played by outstanding post-graduate students at the university in helping to advance his work.

"The reservoir of talent in Israel is extraordinary," he said, but he warned that the future of Israeli science is threatened by slashes in government funding to higher education. He noted that this funding has been cut by 30% since 2003, and that a "precious legacy" would be imperiled if this trend were not reversed. "It is not enough even just to keep pace," said Kornberg. "One has to grow."

Kornberg’s warning was reinforced by Prof. Magidor, who also said that the government cuts in funding threaten Israel’s continuing to be a "major player in science. It is very easy to destroy what has been built until now," warned Magidor.

In addition to Kornberg’s long association with the Hebrew University, his wife Yahli is a graduate of the Hebrew University and a scientist in her own right. Their three Hebrew-speaking children attend school in Jerusalem during the part of the year that the family is in Israel.

Prof. Kornberg joins a distinguished list of Hebrew University-affiliated scholars who have won Nobel prizes in the past few years. Prof. Robert J. Aumann of the Hebrew University’s Institute of Mathematics and Center for the Study of Rationality received the Nobel Prize in economics last year. Prof. Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University and a fellow of the Hebrew University’s Center for the Study of Rationality also won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002. Three others, all graduates of the Hebrew University, won Nobel Prizes in 2004. They are: Prof. Avram Hershko and Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, winners of the prize in chemistry, and Prof. David J. Gross, winner of the prize in physics.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Prof. Kornberg the Nobel Prize for "his studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription" In addition to be Nobel, Kornberg, who was born in St. Louis in 1947, is the recipient of many other prizes for his work in the field of chemistry.

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