Harvard University COVID-19 updates

Department News



The Genetics Society of America (GSA) has awarded Nancy Kleckner, the Herchel Smith Professor of Molecular Biology in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, the 2016 Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal for lifetime achievement in the field of genetics.

In their announcement, the GSA noted Kleckner’s seminal contributions in a variety of research areas including bacterial transposition, chromosome organization, and meiosis. “She has repeatedly combined traditional genetic approaches with molecular biology, microscopy, physics, and modeling—unprecedented applications of these methods at the time, but which have now become commonplace,” according to a press release.

“Nancy Kleckner’s contributions to genetics, including the elucidation of bacterial transposition mechanisms; the invention of transposon mutagenesis and mapping; the demonstration of the role of Spo11 in making double strand breaks in meiosis; and studies of chromosome mechanics—are all marked by a high degree of courage to attack important problems with novel ideas and approaches” said Matthew Meselson, the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences. Kleckner’s former mentor and current colleague, Meselson is the only other MCB faculty member to receive the award.

Kleckner’s innovative methodology helped bring meiosis to the forefront of modern research, and her lab played a key role in deciphering meiotic recombination’s initiation mechanism as well as the “strand gymnastics” of recombination. She continues to investigate meiosis and recombination in addition to chromosome morphogenesis, recombination-independent chromosome pairing, and crossover interference.

“Anything I have accomplished is because of all of the wonderful and talented people I have had in my laboratory over the years, so this award is really for all of us together,” Kleckner said. “I am equally indebted to Matt Meselson, Ethan Signer and David Botstein for their instruction and guidance as an undergraduate at Harvard and as a graduate student and post-doctoral fellow at MIT, respectively.”

Kleckner is a National Academy of Sciences member and an elected fellow of a variety of organizations including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and the American Academy of Microbiology. In 1990, she was awarded the GSA Medal for her early contributions to the field.

The Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal was established in 1981 and named in honor of the geneticist and Nobel laureate famous for his studies of Drosophila chromosomes and their role in heredity.

Read more on the GSA website

Download PDF

View Nancy Kleckner’s Faculty Profile

Nancy Kleckner

Nancy Kleckner