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MacKinnon Accepts Nobel Prize

MacKinnon Accepts Nobel PrizeIn a ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday, Tufts graduate Roderick MacKinnon accepted his Nobel Prize in Chemistry before an audience of 1300 dignitaries and guests. Stockholm, Sweden.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.10.03] Until two months ago, Roderick MacKinnon was a brilliant scientist working outside the public eye. But that changed dramatically on Oct. 8, when the Tufts graduate was selected for a 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In the eight weeks since, MacKinnon has been thrust into the international spotlight, invited to the Oval Office and named as the nation's leading researcher. Today, he capped off his whirlwind experience in Stockholm, Sweden by officially accepting the prestigious prize.

"Royalty and diplomats, scientists and business leaders began gathering in the capitals of Sweden and Norway for twin ceremonies honoring the year's Nobel Prize winners," reported the Associated Press.

More than 1,300 VIP guests - including Sweden's royal family, international leaders and MacKinnon's parents - were on hand throughout the ceremonies, as MacKinnon and his fellow laureates accepted their Nobel Prizes.

"My head has swelled up so much, I can barely get it though the door," William MacKinnon - Roderick's father - joked with Florida Today a few days before leaving for Stockholm. "We certainly succeeded with our children more than we planned."

According to his father, MacKinnon - who earned his medical degree from Tufts in 1982 - always had an interest in the inner workings of cells. His research on the subject was the basis for his Nobel selection.

"He was always especially interested in the electrical operation of the heart - the passage of potassium and chloride ions [across cell membranes]," he said. "It was a puzzle, and he was determined to solve it."

While MacKinnon may have suspected his research would have a major impact on medical research and treatment, he likely never anticipated its impact on his life.

After the Nobel announcements were made, Mackinnon and the other five American Nobel winners were invited to a special meeting with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

MacKinnon was also honored in the December issue of Scientific American, which named the Tufts graduate as the country's "Research Leader of the Year."

And during Wednesday's Nobel Banquet, MacKinnon was sitting just shoulders apart from the King and Queen of Sweden, among many other international leaders and dignitaries.

For MacKinnon, the new-found attention is having some unexpected consequences.

"I liked it when I was a complete nobody and the few people that came to work with me really wanted to work on ion channels," MacKinnon told the Associated Press, describing the phenomena of "Nobel groupies" - young scientists that have been stopping by the laboratories of MacKinnon and his co-winner Peter Agre.

As for the $1.4 million prize he will split with Agre, MacKinnon says he hasn't given it much thought.

"I give it to my wife," he told AP. "She pays the bills."


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