Sir Richard Roberts, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine and chief scientific officer at New England BioLabs, will deliver the 2016 George H. Boyd Distinguished Lecture. He will speak March 22 at 3:30 p.m. in the UGA Hotel and Conference Center’s Masters Hall. His lecture is titled “Exploring Bacterial Methylomes.”
The Boyd Distinguished Lecture Series, supported by UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Research and the William S. and Elizabeth K. Boyd Foundation, brings national leaders and policymakers to UGA in science, education and related fields to discuss applications of research to contemporary issues in education.
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Roberts visit campus,” said David Lee, UGA’s vice president for research. “His work has provided multiple fundamental insights in genetics and molecular biology, and I’m delighted that our students will have the opportunity to hear from such an influential and respected scientist.”
Roberts was educated in England. His postdoctoral research was carried out in J.L. Strominger’s laboratory at Harvard, where he studied the tRNAs that are involved in the biosynthesis of bacterial cell walls.
From 1972 to 1992, he worked at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he began work on the newly discovered Type II restriction enzymes. These enzymes are able to cut a DNA molecule at a particular place, and they are essential tools for recombinant DNA technology. His laboratory discovered and characterized more than 100 such enzymes.
In 1977, Roberts and Phillip A. Sharp independently discovered that genes could be discontinuous, that is, a given gene could be present in the genetic material as several, well-separated segments. In their experimental models, both Roberts and Sharp used a common cold-causing virus, called adenovirus, whose genes display important similarities to those in higher organisms.
This discovery led to the prediction of a new genetic process called splicing, which is essential for expressing genetic information. The discovery of split genes has been of fundamental importance for today’s basic research in biology, as well as for more medically oriented research concerning the development of cancer and other diseases. Roberts and Sharp won the Nobel Prize for their discoveries in 1993.