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Nobel Prize winner visits

Thursday, 8 March 2018

nobel-prize-winner-image
Dr Alasdair McDowell with his Nobel Prize medal.

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 with medal image
Allan Mitchell, Technical Manager, with the medal.

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 and medal image
Sai Velamoor, PhD student, Microbiology and Immunology.

Jesse Drake and medal image
Jesse Drake, 3rd year student, Microbiology and Immunology.

Nadishka Jayawardena and medal image
Nadishka Jayarwardena, PhD student, Microbiology and Immunology.

Dave Prior and medal image
Professor Dave Prior, Department of Geology.

Keanan Sylvester and Thomas Devine and medal v
Keanan Sylvester (holding camera), and Tom Devine, both 4th year students, Microbiology and Immunology.

Thomas Devine holding the medal image
Tom's turn with the medal!

Maria Chapman and medal image
Maria Chapman, OMNI Finance Administrator.

Mihnea Bostina and medal image
Dr Mihnea Bostina, OMNI EM Academic Director.

Cormac McCarthy and medal image
Cormac McCarthy, 3rd year student, Microbiology and Immunology.

Sharon Lequeux and medal image
Sharon Lequeux, EM Technical Specialist.

Richard Easingwood and medal image
Richard Easingwood, EM Senior Technical Specialist.

Laura Burga and medal image
Microbiology Research Fellow Dr Laura Burga.