February 1, 2019
Dear Members of the Connecticut College Community,
I am pleased to announce that renowned developmental biologists Martin Chalfie, a 2008 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and Tulle Hazelrigg will deliver a joint keynote address at our 101st Commencement on Sunday, May 19.
Chalfie and Hazelrigg are professors of biological sciences at Columbia University, where their research has focused on putting into action one of the most important scientific techniques of our time: the use of fluorescent proteins for investigating cell propagation and development. Professor Chalfie’s interest in a transparent nematode inspired him to develop the now ubiquitous fluorescent proteins that led to his 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Professor Hazelrigg’s research on drosophila proved for the first time that green fluorescent protein could be used as a fusion protein without losing protein activity.
These discoveries have, in turn, informed the research of some of our own faculty and students at Connecticut College, notably Bruce Branchini and Marc Zimmer. Zimmer, a computational chemist and the Jean C. Tempel ’65 Professor of Chemistry, has focused his work on the many different applications of the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). In this capacity, he was invited in 2008 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences—the organization responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize—to answer questions about GFP and the scientists who pioneered its study, including Professor Chalfie. Later that year, when the Academy awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Chalfie and two other GPF researchers, the official announcement included a link to Zimmer’s website. To learn more about the uses of fluorescent proteins, I invite you to read this story in the CC Magazine.
As part of the Commencement ceremony, Professors Chalfie and Hazelrigg will each receive a doctor of humane letters honoris causa, an honorary degree that reflects their significant achievement in the advancement of scientific knowledge as well as their commitment to the values that animate our mission of putting the liberal arts in action. We are pleased to feature, for the very first time in our history, two speakers giving a joint address to mark the accomplishments of the Class of 2019.
Finally, I want to remind you that this is a historic commencement in another sense: we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Connecticut College’s first Commencement in 1919. I am very grateful to the Commencement committee for recommending such an inspired and inspiring choice for this occasion. Our thanks go to co-chairs Bonnie Wells and Alexander Medzorian ’19, and David Aldaz Jr. ’19, Rocio Cardenas ’19, Jeffrey Cole, Marc Forster, Tori McKenna, Maggie Newell ’19, Ariella Rotramel, and Haig Yeterian ’19.
It will be a privilege to welcome Professors Chalfie and Hazelrigg to our 101st Commencement.