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Accolades & Honors

Pitt’s School of Medicine awarded its highest honor to a Princeton bioengineer

A portrait of Brangwynne

Clifford P. Brangwynne, a Princeton University researcher who launched the “biomolecular condensates” cell biology field, will receive the 2023 Dickson Prize in Medicine, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s highest honor.

The prize is awarded annually to an American biomedical researcher who has made significant, progressive contributions to medicine. The award consists of a specially commissioned medal, a $50,000 honorarium and an invitation to present a keynote lecture at the University.

“Cliff’s incredibly influential work has opened a new window into biology that could help us better understand diseases affected by changes in protein states, like Alzheimer’s,” said Anantha Shekhar, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine.

Brangwynne, who directs the Princeton Bioengineering Initiative, created a new field in cell biology when he and colleagues found that biomolecules within cells undergo phase transitions and can organize themselves in liquid-like forms. Alongside this discovery, the researchers helped demonstrate that malfunctions in fusion and separation during phase transitions of these liquid-like condensates lead to the formation of solid structures. These solid structures resemble the tangles and fibers observed in neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Brangwynne will accept the award during a research symposium sponsored by the Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University joint molecular biophysics and structural biology graduate program. Brangwynne will deliver the Dickson Prize in Medicine Lecture at 3 p.m. May 12 in the Frick Fine Arts Building auditorium and via livestream. Light refreshments will be served after the lecture.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be honored with the Dickson Prize in Medicine, with so many luminaries among the previous awardees. It is particularly gratifying to receive this recognition from the medical community, which I think is a testament to the translational impacts that fundamental research can ultimately have on society,” said Brangwynne, the June K. Wu ’92 Professor in Engineering at Princeton.

Brangwynne earned his undergraduate degree in material science and engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2001 and his PhD in applied physics from Harvard University in 2007. He then completed his postdoctoral training at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems. Brangwynne joined the faculty at Princeton University in 2011, where he has an integrative research team with backgrounds in engineering, physics, molecular biology and chemistry.

Brangwynne continues to receive recognition for his contributions to the study of living cells and has recently received the 2023 Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Biophysics and the 2023 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.