Nobel Prize laureate Richard Axel will speak in Kennedy Hall's Call Auditorium on Nov. 15.

November 1, 2018

Nobel Prize Laureate Richard Axel to Give Racker Lecture at Cornell

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Nobel Prize laureate Richard Axel is slated to deliver a lecture on “Scents and Sensibility: Representations of the Olfactory World in the Brain,” on Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. in Call Auditorium at Kennedy Hall. The lecture will be free and open to the public.

Richard Axel and his colleague Linda Buck won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004 “for their discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system,” according to The Nobel Prize Organization.

Scott Emr, the Frank Rhodes Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics and Director of the Weill Institute, explained in an email to The Sun that Axel and Buck discovered “how hundreds of genes in our DNA code for the odorant sensors located in the olfactory sensory neurons in our noses.”

Axel is currently a professor and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of Columbia University Medical Center. He is also a member of the departments of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, neuroscience and the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University.

Axel’s current research centers around the relationship between genes, behavior and perception. His current work focuses on how the recognition of odors is translated into an internal representation of sensory quality in the brain and how this representation leads to meaningful thoughts and behavior, according to the Columbia University neuroscience department website.

Axel’s lecture at Cornell will be the annual Ef Racker Lecture in Biology and Medicine sponsored by the Cornell Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics.

“Ef Racker was always interested in the brain and the underlying biochemical mechanisms and metabolic alterations responsible for brain disorders,” Richard Cerione, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine and a co-host of the Ef Racker lecture series, told The Sun in an email.

According to Cerione, the invitation of Axel to speak at Cornell was based on a request from Ef Racker’s daughter Ann Costello, a physician in Ithaca, in finding a prominent neuroscientist as part of the Ef Racker lectureship.

“Axel is an extraordinary speaker and brilliant neuroscientist,” Cerione said. “[The talk] will be entertaining as well as enlighten us about the remarkable capabilities of the brain.”

Cornell has invited other Nobel Prize laureates in the past. For example, writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, was invited to speak on campus in 2010.

Along with his lecture on Nov. 15, Axel will offer a seminar on “Order from Disorder: The Imposition of Meaning on Odor Representation” at 4 p.m. on Nov. 16 in room G-10 of the Biotechnology Building, according to a University press release.