January 27, 2021
Whitehead Institute director and Member Ruth Lehmann is the 2021 recipient of the Genetics Society of America’s (GSA) Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal for lifetime contributions to the field of genetics. The GSA is an international community of more than 5,000 scientists; and the Morgan Medal is one of the most prestigious awards for career achievement in the field of genetics.
The Morgan Medal was bestowed in recognition for Lehmann’s groundbreaking work revealing the unique biology of the specialized cells that give rise to egg and sperm. Known as germ cells, they are the only cells in the body with the power to build a new organism and transmit this potential to future generations. Lehmann’s research using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has uncovered the molecular mechanisms by which germ cells are distinguished from the other cells of the body and how they migrate into position during development of the embryo. These and other highly influential discoveries from the Lehmann lab have spawned insights into many aspects of animal development, cell migration, cell signaling, RNA regulation, genome integrity, and mitochondrial inheritance.
This is the second consecutive year that a Whitehead Institute Member has received the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal. It was awarded in 2020 to Whitehead Founding Member and former director Gerald R. Fink.