Campus & Community


3 min read


Professor of Genetics Gary Ruvkun of Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Department of Molecular Biology is among six top scientists who have been selected to receive the 2008 Gairdner Awards for medical research. Ruvkun was honored with Victor Ambros of the University of Massachusetts for the discovery of microRNAs and their mechanism. Scientists believe that microRNAs will be beneficial in understanding the development of cancer, diabetes, and heart failure.

Collaborating with Ambros, Ruvkun began work on microRNAs in 1982. His work at MGH led to several groundbreaking papers revealing a new world of RNA regulations at an unprecedented small scale. Established by the Gairdner Foundation, the Gairdner Awards recognize outstanding contributions by medical scientists whose work will significantly improve the quality of life. Of the past 288 awardees, 70 have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

The board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently elected Jennifer Leaning, professor of the practice of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health, to serve as vice chair. (Anita W. Coupe of Biddeford Pool, Maine, was named chair.)

Leaning, who is also an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, a senior adviser on international and policy studies at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and co-director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, has served on the HSUS board since 1991. Her academic and policy focus is on operational and normative issues in international humanitarian and disaster response. She brings her extensive experience in these areas to the HSUS’s expanding disaster relief and international programs.

“Treating animals well is a measure of our character but also a reflection of our foresight and wisdom,” said Leaning.

The Consulate-General of Japan in Boston recently announced that Susan J. Pharr, Edwin O. Reischauer Professor of Japanese Politics at Harvard University, has been awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon. The Decoration Bureau administers the awarding of the order, which was granted in recognition of Pharr’s distinguished contributions to the study of Japan.

One of the leading Japan specialists in United States, Pharr is responsible for two main centers supporting Japanese studies and enhancing academic and intellectual exchange on Japan at Harvard: the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. In her years as director of the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, Pharr has organized numerous seminars, successfully inviting distinguished guest speakers from the United States, Japan, and other countries. During more than 20 years at Harvard, she has nurtured scores of young scholars of Japan.