2023-24 Glenn T. Seaborg Medalist

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Prof. Juli Feigon

The UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry is pleased to announce that Professor Juli Feigon (UCLA) has been chosen as the 2023-24 Seaborg Medalist.

The Seaborg Medal, established in 1987, is the highest honor our department bestows for distinguished contributions to science, technological innovation, and/or public service in science.

We will honor Professor Juli Feigon at the 2024 Seaborg Symposium and Medal Dinner on Friday, January 19, 2024. 

The Seaborg Symposium is the department’s annual celebration, centering around the science of the year’s Seaborg Medalist. For next year’s event, we will have an afternoon symposium entitled “Nucleic Acid Transactions and the Awesome Power of Structural Biology”, with talks by Feigon and four other esteemed scientists: Tom Cech (Nobel Laureate, University of Colorado Boulder), Karolin Luger (University of Colorado Boulder), Michael Summers (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), and Hong Zhou (UCLA).

The symposium will take place at 1 p.m. on the UCLA campus in the California NanoSystem Institute (CNSI) auditorium. A poster session by postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students will take place before the symposium in the CNSI lobby starting at noon.

The Glenn T. Seaborg Medal will be presented to Feigon at the evening awards banquet in the Grand Horizon Ballroom at UCLA Covel Commons. The evening events will begin with a reception at 6:00 p.m., followed by dinner and the medal awards ceremony.

All are welcome to attend the Seaborg events. The symposium is free of charge but registration is required for the evening reception and dinner. The dinner ticket price and registration information will be available later in the fall at www.seaborg.ucla.edu. If you would like to be notified when the registration website is available, please contact Isaiah Gutierrez, events@chem.ucla.edu.

Please plan to join us for these exciting events honoring Feigon and her career.

About Professor Juli Feigon

Professor Juli Feigon (pictured above) has been a UCLA faculty member since 1985, when she was appointed the first female Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She currently holds the rank of Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and the Christopher Foote Term Chair.  

A member of the National Academy of Sciences since 2009, Feigon has made significant contributions to the structural biology of DNA, RNA, and their complexes with proteins. She pioneered studies of DNA and RNA structures using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and more recently structural studies of RNA–protein complexes using cryo electron microscopy as well as NMR spectroscopy .

Much of her current research focuses on telomerase, a crucial enzyme that adds DNA nucleotides  to telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes. Telomerase plays a pivotal role in maintaining chromosomal integrity and is a highly regulated determinant of cellular aging, stem cell renewal, and cancer progression.

With her relentless dedication, Feigon’s lab has successfully identified novel components of the telomerase complex and deciphered how its various parts come together to facilitate its essential functions. Her groundbreaking work has shed light on the structural intricacies,  mechanism, and interactions of telomerase, offering invaluable insights into potential drug targets and therapeutic approaches for various diseases.

In 2022, Feigon was honored with the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry’s Herbert Newby McCoy Award. This prestigious award acknowledges outstanding contributions to the fields of chemistry and biochemistry within the department. Feigon’s group earned this recognition due to their pioneering work on  telomerase structure and function.

Beyond her research, Feigon is known for her commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in academia. In 2020, she was honored with the UCLA Academic Senate’s Prestigious Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Research Award, further exemplifying her dedication to creating an inclusive and supportive academic environment.

Feigon earned her B.A. from Occidental College and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in 1982, guided by Professor David Kearns. Her postdoctoral tenure spanned from 1982 to 1985 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was a Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund Postdoctoral Fellow under the supervision of Professor Alexander Rich. In 1985, she joined UCLA’s Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry as faculty. She holds affiliations with UCLA-DOE Institute of Genomics and Proteomics, the Molecular Biology Institute, and the UCLA California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI).

Feigon’s influence extends beyond the university walls, as she remains a source of inspiration and mentorship for aspiring scientists. Her dedication to advancing scientific knowledge and promoting diversity continues to shape the future of research and academia at UCLA and beyond.

About the Glenn T. Seaborg Medal

Dr. Glenn Seaborg is shown at the University of California, Berkeley on Thursday, April 17, 1997 with an elements table sculpted by a fan. (AP Photo/Susan Ragan)

The Glenn T. Seaborg Medal was first awarded in 1987 to UCLA alumnus Nobel Laureate (1951 Chemistry) Glenn T. Seaborg (B.S. ’34) (pictured right), one of the most remarkable and influential chemists of the 20th Century and for whom element 106, Seaborgium, is named. The purpose of the medal is to honor persons who have made exceptional scientific contributions in the fields of chemistry or biochemistry. Awarded annually, the winner of the Seaborg Medal is selected by the executive committee of the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

In addition to Seaborg, nine other Nobel Laureates have been honored with the Seaborg Medal – UCLA professors Donald Cram (1989) and Paul Boyer (1998), UCLA alumni Bruce Merrifield (1993) PhD ’49 and Richard Heck (2011) BS ’52/PhD ’54, and Richard Smalley (2002), Harold Varmus (2012), Stefan Hell (2015), Richard Henderson (2018), and Carolyn Bertozzi (2022). To learn more, visit the Seaborg Medal Recipients website.

Questions? Please contact Isaiah Gutierrez, Seminar and Events Coordinator, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, (818) 588-1572, isaiahgtz@chem.ucla.edu.