Nobel Prize for work on circadian rhythm: Here's why
Michael W. Young, a winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine this week, is a graduate of L.D. Bell High School in Hurst and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Texas at Austin.
Young, who shares the $1.1 million Nobel with Jeffrey C. Hall and Michael Rosbash of Brandeis University, graduated from L.D. Bell in 1967 and is a professor and vice president of academic affairs at Rockefeller University in New York.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from UT in 1971 and a doctorate in genetics from the university four years later. That’s where he met his future wife, Laurel Eckhardt, also a biologist.
The HEB school district issued a statement on the award Wednesday: “We are proud to count Nobel Prize winner Michael Young among our L.D. Bell High School alumni. It’s inspirational for students to see a direct path to the greatest recognitions of the scientific community, starting from the same HEB ISD classrooms they sit in today.”
UT President Greg Fenves said Young’s discoveries “unlocked fundamental knowledge about life. And today, the world recognizes and celebrates his accomplishments.”
Young, Hall and Rosbash were recognized by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden on Monday for their discoveries about the molecular mechanisms controlling the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the inner biological clock that helps to prepare living organisms for the fluctuations of the day.
“This ability to prepare for the regular daily fluctuations is crucial for all life forms,” Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, said in announcing the prize. “This year’s Nobel laureates have ... solved the mystery of how an inner clock in most of our cells in our bodies can anticipate daily fluctuations between night and day to optimize our behavior and physiology.”
They “were able to peek inside our biological clock” and shed light on its inner workings, helping explain such things as jet lag.
In a news conference at Rockefeller University on Monday, Young said news of the award came as a shock.
“This really did take me by surprise. I had trouble even getting my shoes on this morning,” he said. “This is crazy.”
Young has won numerous awards, among them the National Institutes of Health MERIT Award in 2007.
He was born in Miami in 1949 and moved to Texas when he was in high school. He said at the news conference in New York that his interest in circadian rhythms began during his time as a graduate student at UT.