Nobel Laureate Yonath: Gender not an issue to excel in science

Business Mirror
7 March 2015

A visiting female Nobel Laureate said gender is not an issue when an individual wants to pursue and excel in science.

At her recent lecture at De La Salle University (DLSU) in Manila, Prof. Ada Yonath, the Nobel Laureate for Chemistry at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, said women can be good scientists because science is not gender-biased.

"I was not conscious of being a woman when I decided to embark in a career in chemistry," Yonath said.

"I also did not see myself as a female scientist but only a scientist," she added.

DLSU honored Yonath by awarding her an honorary degree in science on March 2 at the campus' Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium.

Best known for her pioneering work on the structure and atomic workings of the ribosome, the cell's "protein factory," the esteemed scientist also established the first protein crystallography laboratory in Israel.

Yonath has generated 3D models that show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome and how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.

In addition, she introduced a novel technique called cryo bio-crystallography that "Revolutionized the field of structural biology and has given it wide-ranging applications, particularly in the development and design of new antibiotics."

Yonath received her bachelor's degree in Chemistry and her master's degree in Biochemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1962 and 1964, respectively. She earned her PhD in X-Ray Crystallography at the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1968.

She held postdoctoral positions in Carnegie Mellon University in 1969 and MIT in 1970, where she worked with 1976 Chemistry Nobel Laureate William N. Lipscomb Jr. of Harvard University. Yonath was also visiting professor at the University of Chicago, visiting scientist at the Heinz-Günter Wittmann, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, and head of a Max-Planck Research Unit at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron in Hamburg while continuing her research activities at the Weizmann Institute of Science, where she was the holder of the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professorial Chair.

She was in the country to deliver a lecture organized by the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation and DLSU.