Science & Technology

It’s the Little Things

A Badger’s neuron research leads to a major honor.

An early interest in chemistry and an unwavering commitment to basic research has earned a Badger a prestigious award that’s often called “the American Nobel.”

Richard Scheller ’74 has been chosen to share the 2013 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. Among Lasker recipients, eighty-three have gone on to win a coveted Nobel Prize.

Scheller, executive vice president of Genentech in California, has studied how messenger chemicals move between neurons (a type of nerve cell), focusing on the tiny containers that hold neurotransmitters and release them to signal a neighboring neuron. Communication between cells is essential in our nervous systems, allowing us to, say, throw a ball, hear a string quartet, or remember a face.

As a student at the UW, Scheller recalls, “There were tremendous opportunities … to do individual research and an honors undergraduate thesis. I have had a little more experience with different universities now and can look back and say … [the UW] is an absolutely terrific, first-rate institution. I owe a lot to them for the education that I received there.”

UW chemistry professor Bassam Shakhashiri says Scheller “stood out right away in Chemistry 104, a second-semester course. What he has done is a great tribute to the ingenuity of the human brain.”

Published in the Winter 2013 issue


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