Lucy Shapiro named 2015 commencement speaker

Using her unique worldview as both artist and scientist, Shapiro revolutionized the field of developmental biology and set the stage for the new field of systems biology.

Lucy Shapiro

Stanford developmental biologist Lucy Shapiro, PhD, whose unique worldview has revolutionized the understanding of the bacterial cell as an engineering paradigm, will be the commencement speaker for the School of Medicine Class of 2015.

The diploma ceremony will be held June 13 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Alumni Green, followed by a luncheon at 1 p.m. on the Dean’s Lawn.

Shapiro, the Virginia and D. K. Ludwig Professor, has spent her career on the leading edge of developmental biology. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science in 2012 and the 2014 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, which celebrates the achievements of outstanding women in science.

Shapiro, director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, has been a faculty member since 1989, when she founded the medical school’s Department of Developmental Biology.

A painter who studied both biology and the fine arts as an undergraduate, Shapiro said that she sees science as part of the world of art. She began her career as a scientist focused on finding new ways of looking at and understanding living things, much as an artist does. She started by hunting for the simplest organism she could find — a bacterial cell — and then studying its molecular mechanisms. Her research into the genetic circuitry of these cells paved the way for new antibiotics. Her use of the microorganism as a model also set the stage for the emerging field of systems biology.

She has served in advisory roles in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations on the threat of infectious disease in developing countries. She has said that increasing levels of both antibiotic resistance and novel infectious agents are likely to be a larger threat to the world than bioterrorism. Shapiro also started a biotech company to test and develop antibiotic and antifungal medications.

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