CU-Boulder Biology Professor Wins 2001 MacArthur Fellowship

October 24, 2001

University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Norman Pace has been named a 2001 winner of a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship, often called a "Genius Grant."

Pace, a professor in the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department, is the fifth CU-Boulder faculty member to win the prestigious award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago. Pace, 59, was one of 23 recipients of the 2001 "no-strings attached" funding.

"I am enormously pleased to be numbered among the MacArthur Fellows," said Pace. "It is a tremendous feeling." The MacArthur Foundation typically selects between 20 and 30 fellows annually "who provide the imagination and fresh ideas that can improve people's lives and bring about movement on important issues."

The MacArthur Program selection committee cited Pace "for revolutionizing our conception of the range and diversity of microbial life." Early in his career, Pace participated in key experiments demonstrating the capacity of genetic material to catalyze biochemical reactions.

He subsequently pioneered the use of molecular genetic techniques to identify microbe species, revealing their evolutionary histories by analyzing the sequence, structure and activity of nucleotide-mediated enzymes across many species.

"Pace's research continues to identify the biochemical and genetic threads that link all organisms and to enrich our awareness of the seemingly boundless, sometimes quite improbable, ecological niches that living things occupy on Earth," concluded the committee.

Pace is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In January he received the 2001 Selman Waksman Award in Microbiology from the NAS, considered the nation's highest award in microbiology. He was cited "for revolutionizing microbiology by developing methods by which microorganisms can be directly detected, identified and phylogenetically related without the need for cultivation in the laboratory."

"Norman Pace is one of our premier teachers and researchers," said CU-Boulder Chancellor Richard Byyny. "He has brought tremendous strength to our campus with his expertise on RNA, microbiology and astrobiology, and passes his newest knowledge on to our undergraduates and graduate students. We are extremely proud to have him on our faculty."

Pace is the fifth CU-Boulder faculty member to have won a MacArthur fellowship since the program was begun in 1981. Past winners include David Hawkins of philosophy in 1981, Charles Archambeau of physics in 1988, Patricia Limerick of history in 1995 and Margaret Murnane of physics in 2000.

"I can't think of anyone more deserving of this award than Norman Pace," said MCD Biology Chair Leslie Leinwand. "He is provocative, creative and an absolute delight to have in our department as a colleague."

Pace received his bachelor's degree from Indiana University and his doctorate from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has held faculty positions at CU's Health Sciences Center (1969-1984), Indiana University (1984-1996), the University of California, Berkeley (1996 to 1999) and CU-Boulder from 1999 to the present.

He has published more than 200 research articles in journals such as Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He also is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology. His work has taken him 14,000 feet under the sea in a research submarine and to Yellowstone National Park, discovering hundreds of new microbial species in the process.

Additional information is available on Pace's home page on the Web at: http://pacelab.colorado.edu/PI/norm.html.

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