Four Scientists are Named Distinguished Scientists of the Marine Biological Laboratory

Contact: Diana Kenney;; 508-289-7139

WOODS HOLE, Mass.—Four scientists yesterday were named Distinguished Scientists of the Marine Biological Laboratory, joining a group of six other researchers who have previously received the institution’s highest honor.

The title of Distinguished Scientist is conferred to highly accomplished scientists whose exceptional work at the Marine Biological Laboratory is of recognized national and international significance. Huntington Willard, President and Director of the Marine Biological Laboratory, conferred the honor yesterday at a meeting of The MBL Society.

Following the announcement, a permanent exhibit honoring the Laboratory’s Distinguished Scientists was unveiled in the lobby of Lillie Building.

Named Distinguished Scientists of the Marine Biological Laboratory yesterday were:

dowlingJohn E. Dowling, Ph.D.
Gordon and Llura Gund Research Professor of Neurosciences, Harvard University
Professor of Ophthalmology (Neuroscience), Harvard Medical School

John E. Dowling is recognized for his groundbreaking research at the Laboratory elucidating the cellular architecture and function of the vertebrate retina. Dowling first came to the Marine Biological Laboratory in 1967 as an independent investigator and course lecturer in Physiology. He also co-founded three MBL courses: Neurobiology; Fundamental Issues in Vision Research; and Zebrafish Development and Genetics. He is a Trustee Emeritus and former President of the MBL Corporation (now MBL Society).

hershkoAvram Hershko, M.D., Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 2004

Avram Hershko is recognized for his studies at the Laboratory defining the role of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation in the cell division cycle. In the early 1980s, Hershko co-discovered the ubiquitin-mediated pathway of protein degradation, work for which he was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004. Through subsequent research, this pathway was shown to play an essential role in regulating a range of cellular processes. Hershko has been a Whitman Center Scientist since 1991.

rudermanJoan V. Ruderman, Ph.D.
Senior Biologist, Princeton Environmental Institute
Former President and Director, Marine Biological Laboratory
Former Marion V. Nelson Professor of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School

Joan V. Ruderman is recognized for her studies at the Laboratory that led to the discovery of the molecular mechanisms that regulate cell division. In the early 1980s and 1990s, Ruderman used the eggs of the Atlantic surf clam (Spisula solidissima) to demonstrate the role of specific cyclin proteins in controlling the phases of cell division, laying the groundwork for our current understanding of the regulation of the cell cycle that have provided essential insights into normal development and cancer biology. Ruderman has had a relationship with the MBL for more than 40 years.  She served as President and Director of the Laboratory from 2012 to 2014.

valeRonald D. Vale, Ph.D.
Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

Ronald D. Vale is recognized for his studies at the Laboratory leading to the discovery of the cytoskeletal motor proteins essential for cell movements. Since his graduate thesis work at the Laboratory in 1983, Vale’s research has focused on the molecular motors inside cells that are responsible the movement of membranes in cell division, shape, and motility. Initially, this work led to Vale’s co-discovery of kinesin, a class of motor proteins, at the MBL in the early 1980s. Vale continues as a Whitman Center scientist at the MBL, leading the HHMI Summer Institute at MBL, an experimental collaboration tackling spatial organization of signaling and RNA metabolism and processing.

Previously named MBL Distinguished Scientists are: Shinya Inoué (1986); John E. Hobbie (2005); Osamu Shimomura (2008); Jerry M. Melillo (2010); Mitchell L. Sogin (2014); and Ivan Valiela (2014).


The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery – exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.