"I am very honored to receive this award and wish to thank all my mentors, colleagues, and trainees who believed in me along the way," Dr. Tu said. "It is wonderful that the Welch Foundation so generously supports basic chemical research in Texas. This support will help us better understand processes that are fundamental to conditions such as cancer and aging. We hope to continue discovering unforeseen roles for small molecule metabolites in biology, improving our understanding of diseases affected by cellular metabolism."
Dr. Tu began his research in yeast and recently expanded to mammalian cells to understand how metabolism affects fundamental cellular processes when nutrients are scarce. His strategy runs counter to the usual approach.
"Scientists tend to culture cells under nutrient-rich conditions because we want them to grow," said Dr. Tu. "In reality, cells in the wild or growing in a tumor often face unfavorable nutritional states. Those are the times you can really see the impact of metabolites. They kick off cellular strategies for survival, such as delaying cell division until more nutrient-favorable times."
The son of two scientists, Dr. Tu enjoyed numbers as a child. An undergraduate course in the organic chemistry of life and lab work at Harvard College convinced him to pursue a career in biochemistry. He arrived at UT Southwestern as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Steven McKnight, chairman of biochemistry, in 2004 and joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2007.
"Ben graduated from Harvard with honors, and then did fantastic doctoral work in biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco," Dr. McKnight said. "He has proven to be as good as it gets as an experimental scientist."
Dr. Tu's honors include the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in Biomedical Sciences, a Sara and Frank McKnight Foundat
|Contact: Deborah Wormser|
UT Southwestern Medical Center