Science & Tech

UC Berkeley Prof, Hughes Institute Investigator Jennifer Doudna To Receive 2017 Cotton Medal

April 24, 2017

Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna.
Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna.
By Shana K. Hutchins, Texas A&M University College of Science

Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna, the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair in Biomedical and Health Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, is the 2017 recipient of the F.A. Cotton Medal for Excellence in Chemical Research named for one of the most honored faculty members in Texas A&M University history.

The medal is jointly awarded each year by the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry and the Texas A&M Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in tribute to Dr. Albert Cotton, a Texas A&M distinguished professor of chemistry widely considered one of the world’s foremost inorganic chemists who passed away on February 20, 2007. He was the inaugural recipient of the medal when it was first awarded in 1995.

Doudna will be honored at an afternoon symposium set for Friday, April 28, in the Stephen J. Hawking Auditorium within the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy. In addition to Doudna’s keynote presentation, “The Chemistry of CRISPR-mediated Genome Editing,” the event will feature talks by University of Texas at Austin chemist David Taylor and UC Berkeley chemist David Savage. The symposium will be followed by an invitation-only dinner, at which Doudna will be presented with the Cotton Medal.

Doudna, a professor of molecular and cell biology and of chemistry at UC Berkeley since 2003, has been a HHMI Investigator since 1997. Her research, which seeks to understand how RNA molecules control the expression of genetic information, has led to insights about CRISPR-Cas9-mediated bacterial immunity that enabled this system to be harnessed for efficient genome engineering in animals and plants. The resulting transformative technology continues to revolutionize the fields of genetics, molecular biology and medicine.

Doudna is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Inventors. In addition to the Cotton Medal, her many career awards include the NAS Initiatives in Research Award, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Waterman Award, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) Lurie Prize, the Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Princess of Asturias Award (Spain), the Gruber Prize in Genetics, the Massry Prize, the Gairdner Award, the Nakasone Prize, the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize, the L’Oreal-UNESCO International Prize for Women in Science, and the Tang Prize.

Dr. F. Albert Cotton.
Dr. F. Albert Cotton.

“Professor Doudna is a truly outstanding selection for this year’s Cotton Medal for Excellence in Chemical Research,” said Dr. Frank M. Raushel, Texas A&M distinguished professor of chemistry and holder of the Thomas W. Powell ’62 Chair in Chemistry. “Her development of the CRISPR-Cas9 system for genome editing has revolutionized how the DNA from any organism can be specifically targeted and modified. This breakthrough promises to have a profound impact on biomedical research and our understanding of the chemical events in biological transformations.”

Cotton came to Texas A&M as the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Texas A&M University in 1972 from MIT, where at age 31 in 1961, he had become the youngest MIT faculty member to attain the rank of full professor. His pioneering 35-year career at Texas A&M revolutionized several fields of chemistry, including inorganic chemistry, protein chemistry, structural chemistry and chemical bonding. Cotton was the originator of and leading authority in the field of compounds containing single and multiple bonds between metal atoms. His other principal contributions dealt with protein structure, spectroscopic studies of metal carbonyls, and the dynamic behavior of fluxional organometallic and metal carbonyl compounds.

This year’s Cotton Medal and Symposium event will feature an expanded format — specifically, a second day in celebration of Cotton as one of the trailblazers of Texas A&M Chemistry during its past 50 years as a department within the Texas A&M College of Science, which also is commemorating its 50th anniversary as a stand-alone college in 2016-2017. The F.A. Cotton Medal Symposium for Excellence in Chemical Research is the fourth in a series of five “excellence events” honoring key professors who defined specific branches of chemistry at Texas A&M and within the chemical sciences during the past half century.

Saturday’s (April 29) salute to Cotton and five decades of chemical research accomplishment will feature a total of 12 speakers and five sessions chaired by the University of South Florida’s Shengquian Ma, the National Science Foundation’s Carlos Murillo, Abilene Christian University’s Greg Powell, the University of South Carolina Aiken’s Daren Timmons and Texas A&M Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and former Dean of Science Dr. John P. Fackler Jr. The festivities will conclude with a banquet at Christopher’s World Grille featuring remarks by Fackler.

The expanded symposium is being organized by Texas A&M chemist Dr. Hongcai Joe Zhou, who earned his doctorate in chemistry from Texas A&M in 2000 under Cotton’s guidance. Zhou spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and was an associate professor at Miami University prior to returning in 2008 to Texas A&M, where he holds a Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry.

For more information on Doudna or the broader Cotton Medal Symposium, contact Texas A&M Chemistry at (979) 845-9829 or via email at

To see the complete list of 50 Years of Chemistry Excellence events, visit

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Cotton Medal Symposium will be live streamed at (Stream 6). From the TTVN homepage,, click on the “Live Streams (Webcasts)” link at the top of the page, then click on the “Stream 6 — Scheduled Live Webcasts” link. For technical assistance with any TTVN Live Webcast, please call TTVN Operations at (979) 862-2241 or visit

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About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $892.7 million in fiscal year 2016. Texas A&M ranked in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development survey (2015), based on expenditures of more than $866.6 million in fiscal year 2015. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit

Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or or Dr. Simon W. North, (979) 845-4947 or

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