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A shared honor for Duke, UNC

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt listens as 2015 Nobel Prize for Chemistry recipient Aziz Sancar's answers questions during a press conference in Chapel Hill.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt listens as 2015 Nobel Prize for Chemistry recipient Aziz Sancar's answers questions during a press conference in Chapel Hill. jknight@newsobserver.com

From an editorial Friday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

It’s a name that means the ultimate, the pinnacle of achievement in any field. And in a scientist’s career, the Nobel Prize is a multimillion-to-one shot.

This year, a scientist from Duke and one from UNC-Chapel Hill are sharing the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with a Swedish scientist. Their work independently focused on DNA repair, something they have studied and advanced for decades, and a field that one day could lead toward cell repair for cancer treatment.

And that’s about as technical as any layperson should get. Paul Modrich, 69, of Duke, Aziz Sancar, 69, of UNC-Chapel Hill and Tomas Lindahl, 77, of Sweden work in a world understood by a relative few. But they understand it, and their tireless research will one day better the lives of humankind.

Sounds like a worthy argument for a Nobel Prize.

Sancar, a U.S.-Turkish national, shared some of his excitement with his country. “Yes,” he said, “they’ve (Turkish friends) been asking over the years and I was tired of hearing, ‘When are you going to get the Nobel Prize?’ so I’m glad for my country as well.”

For his part, Modrich, vacationing in New Hampshire, didn’t care to grab the spotlight. His assistant at Duke said: “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said of the prize, “Their work has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions and is, for instance, used for the development of new cancer treatments.”

So two Triangle universities raise their hands together, with the hope that one day, the achievements in this Nobel Prize will lead to miracles.

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