William Wood

William B. Wood (PhD '64)

The Stanford University Medical Center Alumni Association (SUMCAA) has announced that William B. Wood, PhD '64, will receive the prestigious Arthur Kornberg and Paul Berg Lifetime Achievement Award in Biomedical Sciences. He will be honored at a dinner held on the Stanford campus on October 18.

He is Distinguished Professor of MCD Biology, Emeritus at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he moved in 1975 after 12 years on the biology faculty at Caltech.  He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1964. In recognition of his pioneering research with Robert Edgar on the assembly of complex viruses that infect bacteria, he received the National Academy of Sciences Molecular Biology Award in 1969, and was elected to the National Academies in 1972 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1976. At Caltech, where he taught biochemistry, he was lead author (with John Wilson and Leroy Hood) of the innovative textbook Biochemistry, A Problems Approach.

In Boulder, he chaired his department from 1978 to 1983, building a strong group of faculty in molecular genetics to complement the existing expertise in cell biology, and switched his field of research and teaching to developmental genetics.  His subsequent research interests included genetic control and molecular biology of axis formation, pattern formation, and sex determination in development of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, as well as biology education.  In 2002 he was awarded a Humboldt Research Prize recognizing scientific achievements in understanding the genetic control of early development, and in 2004 he received the Bruce Alberts Award for Distinguished Contributions to Science Education from the American Society for Cell Biology.

In the years prior to his retirement in 2008, he devoted increasing attention to education issues.  With Jo Handelsman, now at Yale University, he founded in 2004, and until 2013 co-directed, the National Academies Summer Institute for Undergraduate Education in Biology, a national HHMI-supported professional development workshop for college biology faculty, and from 2005 to 2010 he served as Editor in Chief of the premier biology education research journal CBE-Life Sciences Education. He was also a member of the NRC Board on Science Education (BOSE) for six years, and served on national committees that produced the NRC reports Learning and Understanding:  Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools (2002), which led to the recently completed revision of the Advanced Placement Biology curriculum and exam, and the more recent Discipline-based Educational Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering.

Since retiring he has continued to serve on the HHMI Science Education Advisory Board and to lecture at a variety of universities on the need to improve undergraduate science education at the college level, and how it can be done.  In 2013 he received the Viktor Hamburger Outstanding Educator Award from the Society for Developmental Biology.

The Arthur Kornberg and Paul Berg Lifetime Achievement Award in Biomedical Sciences honors the legacy of Arthur Kornberg, MD, and Paul Berg, PhD, medical science pioneers and Nobel laureates who brought to Stanford a passion for discovery and groundbreaking research. Established in 2010, this award acknowledges and celebrates the lifetime career achievements of Stanford University School of Medicine alumni in the biomedical sciences. Several previous winners have gone on to win other prestigious awards including the Nobel Prize.