Header Richard Lounsbery Award

Hopi Hoekstra to Present Richard Lounsbery Lecture at Smith College

Hopi Hoekstra, investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biology at Harvard University, and recipient of the 2015 Richard Lounsbery Award presented a lecture entitled "Digging for genes that affect mammalian behavior" at Smith College on Thursday, October 29. This lecture is supported by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation. Watch Lecture  


The Richard Lounsbery Award is a $50,000 prize given in alternate years to young French and American scientists to recognize extraordinary scientific achievement in biology and medicine. It is administered in alternate years by the National Academy of Sciences and the French Académie des Sciences. In addition to honoring scientific excellence, the award is intended to stimulate research and encourage reciprocal scientific exchanges between the United States and France. The Richard Lounsbery Award was established by Vera Lounsbery in honor of her husband, Richard Lounsbery, and is supported by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

First awarded in 1979 to Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein for their work in cholesterol biosynthesis, the Richard Lounsbery Award has been at the forefront of recognizing some of the most significant discoveries in the biomedical sciences by leading U.S. and French researchers. The Lounsbery Award has been the precursor to nine Lasker Awards (Brown and Goldstein, 1985; Leder, 1987; Gilman, 1989; Blobel, 1993; Prusiner, 1994; Rothman, 2002; Chambon, 2004; Greider, 2006), and eight recipients of the Lounsbery Award have received the Nobel Prize (Brown and Goldstein, 1985; Gilman and Rodbell, 1994; Prusiner, 1997; Blobel, 1999; Axel, 2004; Greider, 2009; Rothman, 2013).

Hopi Hoekstra, investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biology at Harvard University, is the recipient of the 2015 Richard Lounsbery Award.

When a population encounters a change in its environment—such as the arrival of a new predator in its current range or the colonization of a new habitat—some individuals will be better equipped to deal with the new conditions than others. Those individuals are more likely to survive, reproduce and pass on their genes, and over time, those genes and the traits they encode come to dominate. The result is that the population has adapted to that new environment or situation. Such evolutionary adaptations are behind much of today’s biodiversity.

Hoekstra has worked to better understand the genetic changes that underlie those adaptations, reconstructing their evolutionary history and understanding their molecular mechanisms. In one key study, she uncovered the sequence of molecular events that led the deer mice that colonized the light-colored Sand Hills of Nebraska to evolve a blonder coat color than mice in the surrounding dark-soil region. Hoekstra identified multiple camouflaging mutations in a single pigment gene, estimated when they occurred and established that these mutations increased chance of survival for mice living in the Sand Hills, which resulted in today's lighter-colored population. More recently, Hoekstra has applied these innovative methods to the genetic changes that affect natural behaviors. In one study, she focused on two species of burrowing mice—the deer mouse, which makes simple short tunnels, and the closely related oldfield mouse, which makes complex, two-entry tunnels. Hoekstra’s team bred mice, made polyurethane casts of their burrows and sequenced their DNA to find the three genetic regions responsible for tunnel length and a fourth that affects the number of entries, revealing for the first time the genetic basis that lay beneath a complex behavior in natural populations of mammals.


Hopi Hoekstra (2015)
For her work probing the molecular basis of how adaptation to novel selective pressures establishes and sustains diversity during evolution. Her tour-­‐de-­‐force transdisciplinary studies have illuminated a fundamental mechanism by which complex behaviors can evolve through multiple genetic changes each affecting distinct behavioral modules.

Frédéric Saudou (2014)
For his major contributions to the understanding of molecular and cellular mechanisms causing Huntington’s disease.  His findings represent a seminal discovery in the understanding of Huntington’s disease and an important step towards a future therapeutic strategy.

Karl Deisseroth (2013)
For pioneering the technology called optogenetics in which insertion of a single bacterial protein into a neuron allows exquisite control of the neuron with light.

Olivier Pourquié (2012)
For his work in embryonic patterning in vertebrates and particularly in the genetic and developmental mechanisms that control segmentation.

Bonnie L. Bassler (2011)
For her pioneering discoveries of the universal use of chemical communication among bacteria and the elucidation of structural and regulatory mechanisms controlling bacterial assemblies.

Gérard Karsenty (2010)
For his work on the molecular mechanisms that underlie the formation and the remodeling of bone.

Cornelia I. Bargmann (2009)
For her extraordinarily inventive and successful use of molecular and classical genetics to probe the individual nerve cell basis of behavior in C. elegans.

Jean-Laurent Casanova (2008)
For his contributions to the understanding the genetic basis of the predisposition to viral and bacterial diseases of childhood, which have important clinical implications for the diagnostic and management of infectious diseases.

Xiaodong Wang (2007)
For his pioneering biochemical studies on apoptosis, which have elucidated a molecular pathway leading into and out of the mitochondrion and to the nucleus.

Catherine Dulac (2006)
For her major contributions in the perception and behavioral translation of pheromones in mammals.

John Kuriyan (2005)
For his critical role in revealing the structural mechanisms underlying processivity in DNA replication and the regulation of tyrosine kinases and their interacting target proteins.

Brigitte Kieffer (2004)
For her pioneering work on the molecular neurobiology of opioid-controlled behaviors, the results of which have very important implications for the treatment of pain, drug abuse, and emotional disorders.

Carol W. Greider (2003)
For her pioneering biochemical and genetic studies of telomerase, the enzyme that maintains the ends of chromosomes in eukaryotic cells.

Denis Le Bihan (2002)
For his work on the invention and development of nuclear magnetic resonance imaging of brain diffusion and perfusion. The method he developed permits in vivo mapping of nerve fiber bundles and has multiple applications in both medical pathology and cognitive science fields.

Elaine Fuchs (2001)
For her fundamental insights into structure and function of cytoskeletal proteins and the relation of these proteins to human genetic diseases.

Miroslav Radman (2000)
For his contribution to the discovery of the molecular mechanisms implicated in the replication and repair of DNA, in particular, the discovery of a key enzyme of the DNA repair mechanism.

Elliot M. Meyerowitz (1999)
For his pioneering contributions to the molecular genetics of plant architecture, which have practical implications for agriculture.

Pascale Cossart (1998)
For her fundamental discoveries in microbiology dealing with mechanisms of bacterial entry and intracellular host motility.

James E. Rothman (1997)
For his dissection of the biochemical mechanisms by which proteins are transferred from one cellular compartment to another and to the outside world. These mechanisms are important in neurotransmission, tissue biogenesis, and hormonal secretion.

Daniel Louvard and Jacques Pouysségur (1996)
For their contributions to the study of the regulation of cell division and differentiation.

Douglas A. Melton (1995)
For showing how cells and tissues differentiate during vertebrate development through studies on localized mRNAs in eggs and the genes that induce mesoderm and neural tissue.

Jean Louis Mandel (1994)
For his work in human genetics and in particular for his discovery of the mutation of fragile X. This new type of mutation has now been found at the origin of the diseases.

Stanley B. Prusiner and Bert Vogelstein (1993)
For their distinct and exciting discoveries about the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and malignant diseases. This award is given as a celebration of the power of modern molecular medicine.

Philippe Ascher and Henri Korn (1992)
For their discoveries of the mechanisms of synaptic transmission. Philippe Asher furthered knowledge regarding the properties of glutamate receptors which play an important role in trials, and Henri Korn brought to light the elementary liberation of neurotransmitter in quanta form in the central nervous system of vertebrates.

Marc W. Kirschner (1991)
For elucidating key steps in the cell cycle, chromosome movement, cell cycle timing, nucleus breakdown and reformation, and microtubule control of cell polarity and mitosis.

Harold Weintraub (1991)
For elucidating a molecular mechanism by which a single regulatory gene can lead to a program of cell differentiation.

Jean Rosa (1990)
For his contributions, which have opened a new road in the control of oxygen transport in the blood and the treatment of the first worldwide genetic plague, drepanocytosis.

Richard Axel (1989)
For his discoveries elucidating gene structure in animal cells.

François Cuzin (1988)
For his original contributions in the elucidation of the mechanisms involved in malignant cell transformation, in particular, demonstration of the necessary contribution of two oncogenes.

Alfred G. Gilman and Martin Rodbell (1987)
For their discoveries regarding the proteins and mechanisms that mediate cellular responses to the binding of ligands to cell surface receptors.

André Capron and Jacques Glowinski (1986)
For their fundamental work, which has contributed to the treatment of parasitic and neurological diseases.

Martin Gellert and Thomas Maniatis (1985)
For their seminal contributions to our understanding of the structure and function of DNA, which were essential and fundamental to the development of recombinant DNA techniques.

Maxime Schwartz (1984)
For his genetic and biochemical analysis of the maltose system of E.Coli, which paved the way for the solution of a series of fundamental problems in molecular biology.

Günter Blobel (1983)
For his work in uncovering the molecular interactions that control the traffic of newly synthesized proteins in eukaryotic cells, for his incisive experiments, and for the beauty of the findings by which he established these interactions.

Pierre Chambon and Jean Pierre Changeux (1982)
For their work on fundamental structures of genetic material and of the nervous system.

Philip Leder (1981)
For his series of notable contributions in molecular genetics, which help to explain the means by which genetic information is organized and used to direct the synthesis of specific cell products.

François Morel (1980)
For his work on the physiology of the kidney.

Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein (1979)
For their work in cholesterol biosynthesis.


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