Dr. Linda Buck, an investigator in the Basic Sciences Division, has become the recipient of two of science's most prestigious honors. On Tuesday, Buck was one of 72 scientists elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the fifth Fred Hutchinson faculty member so honored.
Membership is accorded those with distinguished, continuing achievements in original research. Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honors for a U.S. scientist or engineer.
Other academy members at the center are Drs. Mark Groudine, director of the Basic Sciences Division; Lee Hartwell, center president and director; E. Donnall Thomas, director emeritus of the Clinical Research Division; and Bob Eisenman, Basic Sciences Division.
Also in April, Buck was among five scientists to receive the Gairdner Foundation's 2003 International Award. Established in 1959 by Toronto businessman James Gairdner, the prize honors outstanding achievements in neuroscience and immunology. Buck will receive the prize Oct. 23 in Toronto.
Buck's research has provided key insights into the mechanisms underlying the sense of smell. She discovered the molecular basis of smell: a multigene family that encodes 1,000 different olfactory receptors in the nose. She then used this information to unravel how the identities of different odors are encoded at the molecular level and in the brain to yield diverse odor perceptions.
Among her many contributions are the discovery of sensory maps in the olfactory bulb and olfactory cortex that are virtually identical in different individuals. She also discovered that perception of smell relies on a combinatorial code of multiple receptors inside the nose to sense a particular odor.
Buck, who is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has discovered and characterized families of receptors for pheromones (chemical signals that elicit instinctual behaviors) and tastes, providing new insights into the mechanisms underlying pheromone effects and taste perception.
More than one-fourth of Gairdner award recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, including Thomas and Hartwell.