Thursday, 8 March 2018
It’s not every day you get to hold a Nobel Prize medal, but staff and students of the University of Otago OMNI Electron Microscopy (EM) unit got to do just that when they hosted a special visitor this week.
Dr Alasdair McDowell, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the California Institute of Technology, was part of a team, led by Professor Jacques Dubochet, awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry last year for the development of cryo-electron microscopy.
With more than 45 years’ experience in the field, Dr McDowall played a key role in optimising vitrification (which made cryo-electron microscopy possible) and was the lead author of several of the early papers from the lab that the Nobel Prize recognised.
He was so integral to this work that Professor Dubochet invited him to attend the 2017 Nobel ceremonies and gave him one of the three replica medals offered to each Nobelist.
Dr McDowall has run workshops at the University in the past and was a reference for the cryo-electron microscopy purchase a few years back. He popped in to catch-up with the team on his way through Dunedin.
Allan Mitchell, the OMNI EM unit Technical Manager, says Dr McDowall shared details about the Nobel Prize ceremony in Sweden and all the activities around it.
“He also gave a very inspiring talk to our students, including an outline of how his own career had evolved to lead to the Nobel Prize award, his part in the discoveries, and the highs and lows of his journey along the way.”
Staff and students enjoyed hearing about his experiences, as well as posing for photos with the medal.
Story originally published in Otago Bulletin Board, Wednesday 7 March, 2018.
Staff and student photos
Sai Velamoor, PhD student, Microbiology and Immunology.
Jesse Drake, 3rd year student, Microbiology and Immunology.
Nadishka Jayarwardena, PhD student, Microbiology and Immunology.
Professor Dave Prior, Department of Geology.
Keanan Sylvester (holding camera), and Tom Devine, both 4th year students, Microbiology and Immunology.
Tom's turn with the medal!
Maria Chapman, OMNI Finance Administrator.
Dr Mihnea Bostina, OMNI EM Academic Director.
Cormac McCarthy, 3rd year student, Microbiology and Immunology.
Sharon Lequeux, EM Technical Specialist.
Richard Easingwood, EM Senior Technical Specialist.
Microbiology Research Fellow Dr Laura Burga.