Thomas Cech Biography, Life, Interesting Facts

Chemist

Thomas Cech

Birthday :

December 8, 1947

Also Known For :

Scientist

Birth Place :

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Zodiac Sign :

Sagittarius

Chinese Zodiac :

Pig

Birth Element :

Fire


Thomas Cech was born on December 8, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois, USA. He also had a sister and a brother: Barbara and Richard.

Education

Thomas Cech’s father was a scientist, and he instilled a healthy curiosity in Thomas Cech when it came to learning about the subject for himself. While in both elementary and middle school, he began to study geology independently. He would collect rocks and other similar items. He would often visit colleges nearby and ask the professors there to teach him more about the subject.

In 1966, Thomas Cech went on to attend Grinnell College. Here, he studied both the humanities and sciences. He later graduated from this school with a bachelor’s degree in 1970.  After graduating from this school, he went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley. He stayed here until he graduated with a Ph.D. in 1975.

In 1975, Thomas Cech began working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here, he worked on his postdoctoral research.

Career

In 1978, Thomas Cech began working at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Here, he taught chemistry.

While working at the University, Thomas Cech continued to work on his research. His main topic of study was that of DNA and RNA. During the 1970’s, (mostly the late 1970’s) Cech was more focused on RNA.

Both DNA and RNA carry a sort of “plans” of genetic information. However, there are many differences between the two. DNA is double-stranded, while RNA only had one strand. One of the main functions of RNA is to make codes for amino acids, while DNA is used primarily for genetics. Both are made of amino acids, but different kinds. Even though they are different, they still have many things in common, which make them similar subject to study. One thing that they both do is something called splicing. One thing he discovered in his research was that RNA can splice itself in certain scenarios.

In the 1980’s, Thomas Cech began to work with a research team to find out is RNA in a molecule of Tetrahymena thermophile could destroy or repair chemical bonds. They found out in their study that RNA could do this. They also discovered that RNA also stored genetic material. This is widely known know because of their discovery, but it was only guessed at during the time of their research. Another discovery that they made was that RNA also has many functions when it comes to cellular reactions.

In the later part of the 1980’s, Thomas Cech shifted his focus of study from RNA and DNA to telomerase, a type of enzyme. While studying this subject, he found that the enzyme can help to stop chromosomes from becoming smaller. He and his team also discovered that part of the telomerase. Work to repair itself during replication. This discovery later leads to more discoveries that showed that telomerase could be used in treating cancer.

In 1990, Thomas Cech was promoted to the status of Distinguished Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he continues to teach chemistry.

In 2000, Thomas Cech began working as the president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Here, he donated money for research at the Institute. While here, he even developed a Helix Program. He continued to work here until 2008. After this, he only worked at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and continued his research.

During the late 2000’s into the 2010’s, Thomas Cech continued working at the University of Colorado, Boulder. While here, he formed the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology, which was a laboratory at the school. He currently works as the head of his lab. He also continues his research, still focusing on different kinds of enzymes.

Awards And Accomplishments

All of Thomas Cech’s awards and accomplishments are due to his work in the field of science (namely chemistry). Some of his most impressive awards and accomplishments are listed below.

Louisa Gross Horwitz Price (1988)
Heineken Prize (1988)
Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (1988)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (shared with Sidney Altman) (1989)
National Medal of Science (1995)
Othmer Gold Medal (2007)

Thomas Cech is a member of some prestigious groups and organizations, including the following: National Academy of Science, American Cancer Society, Biofrontiers Institute, University of Colorado Cancer Center, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 

He also had numerous honorary degrees from the following colleges and universities: Grinnell College, University of Chicago

Family Life

Thomas Cech married Carol Martinson in 1970. Together, the couple has two children: Allison and Jennifer.


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