Since Charles Darwin began the discussion, scientists have sought answers to the most fundamental questions of life and how it evolved. Sergei Rodin, Ph.D., has dedicated his career to this search for answers.
In recognition of his work, Rodin, associate professor of biology, has been named as holder of the Susumu Ohno Chair in Theoretical Biology.
The late Susumu Ohno, Ph.D., D.V.M., for whom the chair is named, was a pioneering geneticist and theoretical biologist. He joined City of Hope in the late 1950s, where he conducted pioneering, imaginative research that led him to uncover important principles of modern biology.
|Sergei Rodin holds the Susumu Ohno Chair in Theoretical Biology. (Photo by Markie Ramirez)|
Among his many significant discoveries, two stand out: He determined that one X chromosome is inactivated in female mammals, a pioneering discovery in the now rapidly growing field of mammalian epigenetics; and he proposed that evolution of complex organisms likely results from duplication of genes of simpler organisms. This idea of “evolution by gene duplication” fundamentally changed the way scientists viewed genetic evolution.
Ohno’s fame among scientists also stemmed from his special, creative approach to research. For example, his application of musical notes to the genetic code allowed him to more easily find patterns within stretches of DNA and garnered much attention among researchers, as well as musicians and the public.
In 1981, Ohno was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and named a City of Hope distinguished scientist. He won the Royal Danish Association Research Prize in 1998, an honor usually bestowed upon Nobel Prize recipients. He died from complications due to lung cancer in 2000.
“Dr. Ohno was one of the most influential and unique figures in the field of genetics,” said Arthur Riggs, Ph.D., director emeritus of Beckman Research Institute. Riggs was drawn to City of Hope in the late 1960s by his interest in Ohno’s work. “Susumu was doing really innovative work. He was trying to understand concepts that are very basic to life as we know it.”
The Susumu Ohno Chair in Theoretical Biology continues Ohno’s legacy by supporting Rodin’s work, which also delves into life’s basic mysteries such as evolution of the genetic code.
Rodin came to City of Hope in 1994 as a visiting investigator from the Institute of Cytology & Genetics in Novosibirsk, Russia, where he obtained Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science degrees in genetics, as well as a master’s degree in mathematical biology. In 2000, he was appointed associate professor in Beckman Research Institute.
Rodin’s studies of how the genetic code came to be and how new genes arise and change, leading to novel biological characteristics, adds to the evolutionary story revealed by Ohno’s efforts. A commentary in Nature.com recently highlighted his work and discussed its importance.
Like Riggs, Rodin was attracted to City of Hope by Ohno’s research. “I remember fondly the discussions I had with Dr. Ohno,” said Rodin. “He was a brilliant thinker and always had a new way of looking at ideas. I am honored to be named to this chair, which bears his name.”
Richard Jove, Ph.D., praised Rodin’s thinking. “The work he is doing is breaking new ground in biology, much the same as Ohno’s did,” said Jove, director of Beckman Research Institute. “And it is particularly fitting that Rodin be named as first holder of the Ohno chair, which commemorates a Beckman Research Institute icon, during the institute’s 25th anniversary year.”