In early October, the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology hosted a lecture featuring Nobel Laureate, Dr. Venki Ramakrishnan.

Dr. Venki Ramakrishnan received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for his work on “studies of the structure and function of the ribosome.” In 2000, Ramakrishnan reported the structure of the 30S subunit of the ribosome in a thermophile bacteria called Thermus thermophilus. The discovered structure is important because it shows how ribosomes can translate RNA to protein in a precise matter. Ramakrishnan shared this award with Ada E. Yonath and Thomas A. Steitz. Ramakrishnan is a Group Leader at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge Biomedical Campus, UK England.

The lecture was held in the Charles G. Miller Auditorium of the Chemical & Life Sciences Laboratory with many students and faculty from the MCB community in attendance. The lecture was introduced by Milan Bagchi, Director of the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology, and Hong Jin, Associate Professor of Biochemistry. Jin was a postdoctoral researcher in Ramakrishnan’s lab prior to joining the University of Illinois faculty.

“To me, what distinguished Venki from other scientists is that he is a fantastic mentor. He is brilliant, straightforward, and honest with what he thinks.  He was very open with us. … Whenever he found something interesting, he would step out of his office which is inside of the lab, and start to share with us, for example, he met someone at the conference,  an invitation for a talk,” Jin said.

In his talk, “Initiation of Translation by the Ribosome,” Ramakrishnan spoke about his lab work on the structure of eukaryotic initiation complex on mRNAs with initiation factors including eIF4A. Ramakrishnan described how this complex can promote mRNA recruitment in eukaryotes.

"As you can see from his lecture today, the research that is produced from his (Ramankrishnan’s] laboratory continues to shape our understanding of translation,” said Jin.

Ramakrishnan was also invited to deliver a lecture as a part of the Carl R. Woese Institute of Genomic Biology’s Pioneers in Genomic Biology lecture series titled, “My Adventures in the Ribosome.” He also participated in a discussion about the joy and similarity of playing music and doing science at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

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