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Belfort to Receive Honorary Hebrew University Degree

by Greta Petry (March 7, 2006)

Marlene Belfort
Marlene Belfort

Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Sciences Marlene Belfort of the School of Public Health has been chosen to receive an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Belfort is director of the Division of Genetic Disorders at the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, as well as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. She is scheduled to accept the Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa at the annual convocation on June 11 at the Rothberg Amphitheater on the Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus.

Belfort, who joined the University in 1985, is world renowned for her path-breaking contributions to the field of molecular biology. Her pioneering work reinforced how science views the basic unit of heredity, the gene, and was key to her election to membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

In response to the news, Belfort said, "The University at Albany and Wadsworth Center have provided a wonderfully supportive and stimulating environment for my academic and research interests to flourish."

In making its decision, the Senate of Hebrew University passed a resolution noting that it "wished to pay tribute to your outstanding scientific achievements in genetics, molecular biology, evolution, and biotechnology. Your finding that RNA introns also exist in prokaryotes is a remarkable discovery that changed the central dogma on the nature of the genetic information across species, including simple organisms."

Prokaryotes are single-celled organisms, like bacteria, that lack a true nucleus. The resolution continued: "Your second fundamental discovery, that prokaryotic introns can move at the level of the DNA, thereby acting as mobile genetic elements, is an important contribution to the understanding of genetic mechanisms that play a role in evolution."

A letter from Hebrew University President Menachem Magidor and Professor and Rector Haim Rabinowitch noted Belfort's "extensive collaborations with scientists in the Hebrew University assisted in better understanding of topics in molecular biology and genetics."

Interim Vice President for Research Lynn Videka said, "The caliber of science represented by the work of Marlene Belfort sets the standard for the University at Albany's interdisciplinary life sciences initiative. The recognition of her work by the Hebrew University, one of the foremost higher education institutions of the world, brings honor and inspiration to the entire scientific community at the University at Albany."

Peter J. Levin, dean of UAlbany's School of Public Health, congratulated Belfort and said, "Not only is Marlene internationally recognized for her own scientific accomplishments, she is also genuinely interested in helping others to become successful in their work."


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