Roderick MacKinnon life and biography

Roderick MacKinnon picture, image, poster

Roderick MacKinnon biography

Date of birth : 1956-02-19
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Burlington, Massachusetts, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-09-16
Credited as : chemist, Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Lasker Award

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Roderick MacKinnon was born in Burlington, Massachusetts and initially attended the University of Massachusetts Boston. MacKinnon then transferred to Brandeis University after one year, and there he received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry in 1978, studying calcium transport through the cell membrane for his honors thesis in Christopher Miller's laboratory. It was also at Brandeis where MacKinnon met his future wife and working-colleague Alice Lee.

After receiving his degree from Brandeis, MacKinnon entered medical school at Tufts University. He got his M.D. in 1982 and received training in Internal Medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. He did not feel satisfied enough with the medical profession, so in 1986 he returned to Christopher Miller's laboratory at Brandeis for postdoctoral studies.

In 1998, American biochemist Roderick MacKinnon and colleagues in his lab produced the first high-resolution three-dimensional x-ray crystallography images showing the detail and intricate workings of the potassium channels in cell membranes. His research showed that a short sequence of five amino acids acts to filter out sodium ions, despite the fact that these are much smaller than the potassium ions that automatically gain admission to these channels.

Trained as a doctor, MacKinnon gave up a tenured professorship at Harvard and switched careers at the age of thirty. He then largely taught himself the techniques of x-ray crystallography, which fires a beam of x-rays at a crystallized material sample, then measures the scattering of these rays from the crystal to deduce the sample's molecular structure. MacKinnon won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2003, sharing the honor with Peter Agre, who discovered water channels in cell membranes.


AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize 1998
Lasker Award 1999
Alexander M. Cruickshank Award 2000
Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award 2000
Gairdner Foundation International Award 2001
Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize 2003
Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2003 (with Peter Agre)
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (1997-)
National Institutes of Health Fellow (1985-86)
Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society
American Philosophical Society 2005
Federation of American Scientists Board of Sponsors
National Academy of Sciences 2000

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