Published: Oct. 9, 2017 By

Image of Professor Cech with students courtesy of the Department of ChemistryNobel Laureate Professor Tom Cech came to the Department of Chemistry on 16th October, to give the 2017 Herchel Smith Lecture: 'Shedding some Light on the Dark Matter of the Genomic Universe.'

Professor Cech is Distinguished Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, Director of the University of Colorado BioFrontiers Institute, and Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The full title of his talk was 'Shedding some Light on the Dark Matter of the Genomic University - Ribozymes, Telomerase and Regulating Epigenetics'. 

Dr Cech's work has been recognised by many national and international awards and prizes including the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989 and the National Medal of Science in 1995. In 1987, he was awarded a lifetime professorship by the American Cancer Society.

Herchel Smith was one of Cambridge's greatest scientists and benefactors. After reading Natural Sciences and taking a PhD in Chemistry here, Dr Smith had a highly successful career in the pharmaceutical industry where his research fundamentally contributed to the development of the first synthetic birth control pills, injectable contraceptives and other groundbreaking hormone therapy treatments. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University in 1989. Dr Smith was a substantial benefactor to the University of Cambridge, his generous donations reflecting his interests. This includes the Herchel Smith Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry Fund. This was the second Herchel Smith lecture in the department given in his memory; the first was in 2012 when Sydney Brenner and Marcus Smith opened the Herchel Smith Laboratory.

The impact of Dr Smith's legacy in Cambridge has been immense and will continue into the future. The generous endowments he provided for his Professorships attract leaders in their field to Cambridge, who inspire and motivate new generations of talented researchers and students.