University of Chicago scientist wins prestigious Balzan Prize

Wen-Hsiung Li, Ph.D., the George Wells Beadle Distinguished Service Professor in the department of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, has been awarded the prestigious Balzan Prize in genetics and evolution by the International Balzan Foundation.

The $709,000 award is often referred to as the "Italian Nobel." Li is one of four people worldwide to receive a Balzan Prize this year for contributions to science and humanities. The three other 2003 prizewinners were British historian Eric Hobsbawm, French psychologist Serge Moscovici and German astronomer Reinhard Genzel.

"The past awardees in genetics and evolution were giants in my field," Li said, "so, it was a big surprise to me when I received the notice from the president of the Balzan Foundation."

"Wen-Hsiung Li has made seminal contributions to the field of evolutionary molecular genetics," according to the founding, which is based in Milan, Italy. "He has developed widely used methods for inferring phylogenetic relationships and has made important discoveries about the rate of genetic change in different groups of animals.

"The recent completion of the mapping of the human genome placed Li among the top scholars who could analyze evolutionary molecular genetics," the foundation said.

The 2003 award-giving ceremony will take place in Berne, Switzerland, on Friday, Nov. 7, in the Federal Parliament Buildings.

Wen-Hsiung Li
Li graduated from Chung Yuan College of Sciences and Engineering in Taiwan, where he majored in civil engineering. He earned a master's degree in geophysics from National Central University before coming to the United States to study at Brown University, where he earned a Ph.D. in applied mathematics in 1972.

Li has developed and applied mathematical techniques to a very wide range of problems and his methods are amongst the most generally used in the field.

With the explosion of DNA sequence data since

Contact: Catherine Gianaro
University of Chicago Medical Center

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