George P. Smith is a molecular biologist recognized for establishment of phage display technology in the late 1980s and early 1990s, for which he shared the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Born in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1941, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Haverford College in 1963, and did graduate work in molecular immunology under Edgar Haber at the Massachusetts General Hospital, receiving his Ph.D. in bacteriology and immunology from Harvard University in 1970. From 1970 to 1975 Smith continued molecular immunology research as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Oliver Smithies at the University of Wisconsin. From 1975 until his retirement in 2015, Smith served as Assistant, Associate, and full Professor in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia. His research focused variously on molecular immunology, filamentous phage biology, phage-display technology, vaccine development for apicomplexan diseases such as babesiosis and malaria, and molecular imaging of cancer. Smith taught numerous courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels, including most prominently molecular biology lecture and laboratory courses and senior writing-intensive seminars on third-world diseases. From 2009 to 2015, he helped establish the Mathematics in Life Sciences education program for entering students.

Research Interests

George Smith's college senior research project in 1962?1963 initiated an engagement with molecular immunology in which much of his research and teaching have been rooted. His attempt to account for the evolution of tandemly repeated genes such as the immunoglobulin V genes was the genesis of a long-standing interest in population evolution at the genome level. Filamentous phages entered his career as the vectors for a brief, ill-starred attempt to analagize the heritable commitment of cells to defined fates in developing multicellular organisms to the heritable commitment of maturing immune cells to expression of a single set of antibody or T-cell receptor genes. That was the start of a trajectory that led in the late 1980s and early 1990s to phage-display technology, which was recognized by his 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Phage display was the basis of his approach to vaccine development for difficult diseases such as malaria in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Throughout his career, Smith has applied the elementary mathematics he studied in college to his research and teaching. His most enduring mathematical interest has been in the laws of probability theory as the fundamental rules of empirical reasoning in science and other human affairs.

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Section 61: Animal, Nutritional, and Applied Microbial Sciences