Joan A. Steitz, PhD, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, has donated her portion of the prestigious Wolf Prize—which she received in February 2021—to the Yale Center for RNA Science and Medicine. The $33,000 donation will be used to start a Yale RNA Scholars Program in support of junior RNA scientists.
Yale is renowned for its RNA research. The university is “RNA heaven,” says Karla Neugebauer, PhD, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry and of cell biology, as well as director of the RNA center. Her colleagues refer to Yale as the “epicenter of RNA.” And Steitz, she continues, has been an incredible contributor to RNA Science and role model at the RNA center for the past five decades.
“She’s an RNA biologist extraordinaire,” Neugebauer says. “The RNA Center at Yale has everything to do with Steitz and her work. She is an important champion of RNA as a molecule.”
Steitz’s early work determined how bacterial ribosomes bind to RNA to initiate protein production. She was the first person to identify this mechanism in the 1960’s.