2023 Lecturer - Susan Gasser, Ph.D.
Danesh Moazed, Ph.D., Professor of Cell Biology
I. May 1, 2023
II. May 2, 2023
About the Fawcett Lectures
Each Spring, the Cell Biology department hosts a prominent researcher(s) in any area of cell biology and related fields to give a pair of seminars open to the public. Supported by endowed funds, this two-day event has featured a roster of impressive scientists, including past and soon-to-be Nobel prize winners. Invited speakers meet with faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. We also hold a reception in honor of the speaker, where lecture attendees meet over food and drink to discuss science and meet with the speaker.
The namesake of this lecture series is Dr. Don W. Fawcett, a pioneer in what we now call the field of cell biology. He received his A.B. degree cum laude (in 1938) and M.D. degree (in 1942) from Harvard University. He is recognized as one of the pioneers of electron microscopy and would go on to publish over 200 papers on the ultrastructure of cells and organs. Dr. Fawcett was also the first President of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). To learn more about Don Fawcett, see his biography below.
Biography of Donald W. Fawcett, M.D.
Donald Wayne Fawcett received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School (HMS) in 1942. During his medical training, he engaged in research in the Department of Anatomy at HMS. After WWII, he returned to the Anatomy department and began working on adipose tissue and the male reproductive system. He would later chair the Department of Anatomy at Cornell Medical School from 1955-1959, and he chaired HMS’ Department of Anatomy (the precursor to the Department of Cell Biology) from 1960 until his retirement in 1982.
During the 1950's, Dr. Fawcett recognized the enormous potential of the newly developed electron microscope and journeyed to what is now Rockefeller University to work with Drs. Keith Porter and George Palade. Fawcett was the first to describe the 9+2 pattern of microtubules in cilia, and he would eventually publish over 200 papers on the ultrastructure of cells and organs, and author The Cell, an atlas of subcellular fine structures. Fawcett, Porter, and Palade were widely recognized as the foremost leaders in the use of electron microscopy to study cells, and they are now considered the founders of modern cell biology. In 1961, Fawcett was elected the first president of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), which whose founders included both Fawcett and Porter.
During his career, Dr. Fawcett made many important observations of cells and subcellular structures, including mitochondria, skeletal and cardiac muscle, brown fat, hepatocytes, and spermatozoa. He was also the first to recognize smooth endoplasmic reticulum as a distinct entity, and he demonstrated its role in drug and steroid metabolism. He defined the sarcoplasmic reticulum and discovered nuclear lamina. Later, his career focused on male reproduction, sparking advances in reproductive biology. In addition to receiving numerous awards and accolades for his research, Fawcett distinguished himself in another important respect: he appointed the first female professor and the second Black professor in a preclinical department at HMS. As an Associate Dean, he would appoint the first woman to occupy a departmental chair in a preclinical department.
In honor of Dr. Don Fawcett (1917-2009), the Fawcett Lectures were established in 1988 to bring outstanding scholars in cell biology to Harvard Medical School.