New Johnson & Johnson Chair honors Susan Lindquist, role model for women in science

November 16, 2016

Cambridge, Massachusetts, November 16, 2016-- When the widely respected Whitehead Institute researcher Susan L. Lindquist died on October 27, she left behind a legacy of both soaring scientific accomplishment and deep personal commitment. In a career spanning four decades, she changed the way scientists viewed the role of cellular proteins in human health, evolution, and biomaterials. She was also a leader who--through the example of her career and through her personal engagement--fostered the careers of women determined to fulfill their potential as scientists.

To honor Dr. Lindquist, Johnson & Johnson has endowed the Susan Lindquist Chair for Women in Science at Whitehead Institute, to be awarded to a distinguished female scientist who is advancing biomedical research.

"The biomedical research enterprise has been immeasurably enriched by the hundreds of women and men who, directly or indirectly, were inspired by Sue's achievements, guided by her wisdom, and nurtured by her support," observes David C. Page, M.D., Director of Whitehead Institute and Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "She played a particularly important role as an exemplar and an advocate for women in the sciences. And we are immensely pleased that--through this professorship--Johnson & Johnson is honoring her legacy and advancing her vision of scientific research as a gender-neutral endeavor."

In addition to serving as a Member of Whitehead Institute and Professor of Biology at MIT, Lindquist was a member of the Johnson & Johnson Board of Directors since 2004, serving as Chairman of its Science, Technology and Sustainability Committee and a member of its Regulatory, Compliance, and Government Affairs Committee.

"Sue was a prolific scientific pioneer who changed fundamental understanding of the biology of human health. As part of the Johnson & Johnson Board of Directors, she challenged us to use science and technology in new ways to help improve the health and lives of people all around the world," says Alex Gorsky, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Johnson & Johnson. "We are pleased to establish this Chair in Sue's name, recognizing a greatly respected and beloved scientist and a passionate advocate for women in science."

"Susan was a force of nature and a force for good," reflects Cori Bargmann, President of Science for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Legions of leading female scientists credit Lindquist with helping advance their careers. "Sue Lindquist understood that pioneering scientists need champions--especially if the pioneering innovator is a woman. This chair creates a new link in the ever-growing chain of women scientists connecting Sue with women before and after her--women who mentor and promote one another as we work toward our shared dream of a profession without gender bias," says Bonnie Bassler, Ph.D., Squibb Professor and Chair in Molecular Biology at Princeton University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (HHMI), MacArthur Fellowship winner, and member of the National Science Board appointed by President Obama. "In my own case, Sue heard an early seminar of mine, knew that my post-doc mentor had just retired, and took it upon herself to become my advocate. This selfless act was the most meaningful and important influence in my career."

Recent MacArthur Foundation Fellowship winner Dianne K. Newman, Gordon M. Binder/Amgen Professor of Biology and Geobiology at California Institute of Technology, recalls that she first heard Lindquist speak when Newman was in graduate school. "She was so passionate about her work, so eloquent, and exemplified the type of daring, open minded, rigorous scientist I hoped one day to become," Newman says. "Many years later, as a colleague at MIT, I saw an equally impressive side of Sue: her personal warmth and generosity. Sue demonstrated that one could be a first-class scientist and a first-class human being. She was a phenomenal role model in all ways, to young men and women alike."

The newly established chair will be held by a distinguished female member of the Whitehead Institute faculty, whose title would be Susan Lindquist Professor for Women in Science. "The title's phrasing--'for women in science'--was specifically chosen by Sue and endorsed by Whitehead Institute leadership," Page explains. "It is deliberately open-ended and consciously provocative. We want the incumbents to have great flexibility in how they pursue Sue's legacy of stellar science and courageous leadership. We hope it spurs discussion in the broader science community, and are comfortable if it sparks controversy."

Brit D'Arbeloff, one of the few women to earn a graduate degree at MIT in the early 1960s, and her late husband, former Whitehead Institute Board Chair Alex D'Arbeloff, were close to Lindquist. "Sue was the reason Alex and I were involved with Whitehead," she recalls. "Sue was both an unbelievable researcher and an amazing, warm, open and interesting person. I miss her, but am thankful for having known her and seen all she was able to accomplish."

Reflecting on Lindquist's stellar science, Cori Bargmann, says, "The beauty of her own scientific trajectory shows how depth and focus lead to advances: first asking how chaperones help proteins fold, then learning how misfolded yeast proteins propagate across generations, then using that knowledge to probe protein misfolding in human neurodegenerative diseases. And her creativity! Rutherford and Lindquist, 1998 ("Hsp90 as a capacitor for morphological evolution") will always be one of my favorite papers."

"Susan Lindquist was a wonderful scientist who cared about those for whom her research was being done as much as the science itself," says Rita Colwell, Professor in the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies at University of Maryland, who was the first woman to serve as Director of the National Science Foundation. "Sue was noble in spirit and in action; that was most evident in her commitment to STEM education and in advocating for women in science. She left us too soon but we will long remember her contributions to the betterment of humanity through her scientific research, teaching, and mentoring."

Family members have suggested that donations in Susan Lindquist's honor be directed to the Whitehead Institute Fund to Encourage Women in Science. Programmatic efforts funded by this fund will complement the new Lindquist Professor's mentoring and public outreach efforts, and may include K-12 programs, a lecture series, or a symposium for women in science (

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

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