2009 Distinguished Scientists

2009 Distingusined

The American Heart Association is pleased to announce the selection of the 2009 Distinguished Scientists.  Each year this distinction is proudly bestowed upon prominent AHA members whose work has advanced the understanding and management of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

2009 Distinguished Scientists

Chalfie, Martin3

Martin Chalfie is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences and past chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University.  In 2008 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Osamu Shimomura and Roger Y. Tsien for his introduction of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) as a biological marker.

Dr. Chalfie was born in Chicago, Ill.  He obtained both his A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard University and then did postdoctoral research with Sydney Brenner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He joined the faculty of Columbia University as an assistant professor in 1982 and has been there since.

He uses the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to investigate nerve cell development and function, concentrating primarily on genes used in mechanosensory neurons.   His research has been directed toward answering two different biological questions: How do different types of nerve cells acquire and maintain their unique characteristics? How do sensory cells respond to mechanical signals? In his studies, he has introduced several novel biological methods in addition to his work with GFP.

He traces his work on Green fluorescent protein to a 1988 seminar from Paul Brehm about bioluminescent organisms. This led to some crucial experiments in 1992, detailed in his paper “Green fluorescent protein as a marker for gene expression,” which is among the 20 most-cited papers in the field of molecular biology and genetics. He has published more than 200 papers, of which at least 16 have more than 100 citations.

Dr. Chalfie is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Royal Society of Chemistry (Hon.).  He shared the 2006 Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Science from Brandeis University and the 2008 E. B. Wilson Medal from the American Society for Cell Biology with Roger Tsien.