Reppert honored by Czech Academy of Sciences with Mendel Medal for Merit in the Biological Sciences

By Jim Fessenden

UMass Medical School Communications

May 28, 2013
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Steven M. Reppert, MD, the Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience and chair and professor of neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, receives the Gregor Johann Mendel Honorary Medal for Merit in the Biological Sciences from Professor Jiri Drahos, president of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

Steven M. Reppert, MD, the Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience and chair and professor of neurobiology, was awarded the Gregor Johann Mendel Honorary Medal for Merit in the Biological Sciences by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic for his seminal contributions to chronobiology and uncovering the molecular mechanisms of navigation in migrant organisms. Reppert received the medal in Prague on March 20.

The G. J. Mendel Medal was established by the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in 1965 and is named after the founder of the discipline of genetics, Gregor Johann Mendel. The Mendel Medal is the Czech Academy’s highest research award and one of the world’s top honors in the biological sciences. The medal is awarded by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in recognition of outstanding contributions in the biological and agricultural sciences. Previous recipients include J. Michael Bishop, James D. Watson, Fotis Kafatos, and David Baltimore.

“I am very grateful to my Czech colleagues and deeply honored to receive this award named after the father of modern genetics,” said Dr. Reppert.

An international expert in chronobiology and neuroethology, Reppert has made significant contributions to the molecular and genetic analysis of circadian timing of mammals, including humans, over a 30-year career. In addition to mammals, he uses insects, specifically the monarch butterfly, in his research. This combination has helped him elucidate the biology of circadian timing mechanisms at the molecular, cellular and neuroanatomical levels. Moreover, his field-leading work has contributed to uncovering the molecular mechanism of navigation in migrant organisms, including how animals perceive the Earth’s magnetic field and use this information to orient themselves in space.

Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884) was a Moravian priest, a natural scientist of German nationality and founder of the discipline of genetics. He worked the conclusions of his experiments with cross-breeding into a law which showed the nature of genetic factors and the statistical regularity of their transmission from generation to generation. Mendel’s laws are the foundation of the modern discipline of genetics, which has quickly grown into one of the most significant branches of biology.

In a formal ceremony in Ceske Budejovice, Reppert received a second award – the degree of Doctor honoris causa in the field of molecular and cell biology and genetics from the University of South Bohemia. The degree was given in honor of his lifelong work in the field of molecular chronobiology and for his personal contribution to the development of these disciplines at the University of South Bohemia.