Alexander Rich, the William Thompson Sedgwick Professor of Biophysics, is this year's recipient of Sigma Xi's William Procter Prize for Academic Achievement.
Rich will receive the prize and deliver the Procter Prize address at this year's annual meeting of the scientific research society Nov. 9-11 in Raleigh, N.C.
Sigma Xi's highest honor, the Procter Prize recognizes scientific achievement and an ability to communicate the importance of that research to others. MIT recipients of the prize have included Philip Morrison, Institute Professor emeritus in physics (1997); Victor F. Weisskopf, Institute Professor emeritus in physics (1984); Morris Cohen, Institute Professor emeritus in materials science and engineering (1976); Edwin H. Land, visiting Institute Professor (1963); Charles Stark Draper, Institute Professor emeritus in aeronautics and astronautics (1959); Vannevar Bush, former faculty member, dean, vice president and chairman of the Corporation (1954); and Karl T. Compton, former president and chairman of the Corporation (1950).
Rich is best known for his discovery of left-handed DNA, or Z-DNA, and the three-dimensional structure of transfer DNA, key discoveries that have led to an understanding of the role and function of RNA and DNA molecules in heredity. His talk is titled "DNA is Normally a Right-Handed Double Helix but Occasionally It Turns Left-Handed."
Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi includes nearly 75,000 scientists and engineers who were elected to the society in recognition of their research achievements or potential. The organization has more than 500 chapters at universities and colleges, government laboratories and industry research centers.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 7, 2001.