Arthur J. Mahon Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, and also Director of the Helen and Robert Appel Alzheimer’s Disease Research Institute
Gregory A. Petsko, D. Phil. is the Arthur J. Mahon Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, and also Director of the Helen and Robert Appel Alzheimer's Disease Research Institute. He also holds appointments as Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, Adjunct Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, and Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, Emeritus, at Brandeis University. He received his BA from Princeton University, summa cum laude, in 1970, and his D. Phil. from Oxford University (which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar) in Molecular Biophysics in 1973. He was Professor of Chemistry at MIT from 1978 until 1990, when he moved to Brandeis University as Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, Director of the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry. He moved to Weill Cornell Medical College in April 2012.
His awards include the Siddhu Award and the Martin J. Buerger Award, both from the American Crystallographic Association (35 years apart, for outstanding contributions to X-ray diffraction), the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry of the American Chemical Society (for development of methods to visualize reaction intermediates in three dimensions at atomic resolution), the Lynen Medal for his pioneering contributions to the study of protein dynamics, the McKnight Endowment for Neuroscience Brain Disorders Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 1991 the Max Planck Prize, shared with Professor Roger Goody of Heidelberg for their joint work on the molecular origins of Ras-dependent human cancers. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He has an honorary Doctor of Laws from Dalhousie University. He is Past-President both of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and is currently Chair of the Medical Sciences Section of the AAAS. He is the founder of several publicly-traded biotechnology companies and is one of the founding editors of the PLoS family of journals. His research interests include protein structure and function and the development of methods to treat age-related neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS (Lou Gehrig's), Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and the development of better models for brain disorders including brain cancers.
His public lectures on the aging of the population and its implications for human health have attracted a wide audience on the Internet (one of his TED talks, for example, has been downloaded over 800,000 times). For many years he has also written a widely-read and much reprinted column on science and society, the first ten years of which have recently appeared in book form. He admits, however, that the columns guest-written by his two dogs, Mink and Clifford, are much more popular than those he writes himself. Besides his family, teaching and his work, he says there are only a few things that he really loves: dogs; bicycling; hiking through deserts, mountains and rain forests; good writing, and single-malt Scotch. He also states that his greatest accomplishment is, and always will be, the more than 100 graduate students and postdocs that he has helped to train, a list that includes five Howard Hughes Investigators, two members of the National Academy of Sciences, and the second woman ever to head a Max-Planck Institute in Germany.