Turkish-Born Scientist Is Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
In October, Aziz Sancar, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with two others, for his ground-breaking research in how human DNA repairs itself after it is damaged. Sancar did the research that garnered him the prize during the 1970s, while at Yale University.
Tomas Lindahl, a Swedish researcher based in the U.K. and Paul Modrich of Duke University are Sancar’s co-laureates for their own independent contributions in the field of DNA repair. Sancar is only the second Turk to win a Nobel prize and the first to do so for a scientific contribution. Orhan Pamuk, a fellow graduate from the University of Istanbul, won the literature Nobel in 2000.
Sancar was born in one of eight children to Turkish farmers. Neither of his parents had received a formal education, but Sancar’s parents placed a great deal of emphasis on education: Sancar and all of his siblings went on to earn degrees.
Although he is proud of his Turkish heritage and hopes to set an example for young Turks interested in science, Sancar’s contributions have helped to bolster American research, at Yale and UNC, in particular, for more than four decades. The important contributions that Sancar has made to science underscore how crucial global talent is to American institutions.
In order for American research and educational institutions to remain competitive on an international level, they must be able to attract the best talent from around the world. Immigration rules, such as the H-1B visa program that allows highly-talented individuals to live and work in the U.S., go some way in boosting American competitiveness. However, quotas and bureaucratic quagmires obstruct the path to the U.S. for some of the world’s best talent.
Immigration reform that eases the way for global talent to live and work in the United States is crucial for the U.S. to remain academically competitive on an international scale.