Penn’s Ralph Brinster awarded National Medal of Science

Philadelphia — Ralph Brinster, the Richard King Mellon professor of reproductive physiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) has become the first veterinarian to win the National Medal of Science.

The award announcement came from the White House Sept. 27. Brinster was one of seven top scientists to receive the honor.

The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Nominees are selected by a committee of Presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in and contributions to chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, and the biological, behavioral/social, and physical sciences.

”I am incredibly proud of Ralph,” says Penn Vet Dean Joan C. Hendricks. “He is undoubtedly the top veterinary scientist in the world, especially if you consider his sustained excellence and demonstrated brilliance over at least five decades, and he is one of the top biomedical scientists anywhere. Penn Vet is thrilled that we are able to count Dr. Brinster as one of our own brilliant scientists.”

Brinster was honored specifically for his research on the manipulation of the mammalian germline—the cells that give rise to sperm and eggs. By inserting new genes into the germline of a developing organism, researchers can produce animals with selected traits that are indispensible models in understanding life process and disease.

Brinster has spent 50 years researching the human and animal germline, most recently including spermatogonial stem cells, which could be used to restore fertility to men undergoing cancer treatments.

”Penn has been an incredible place to work; it’s like a family with an extremely supportive environment,” Brinster says. “I was very surprised and honored to receive this award, and it is well-deserved recognition for the veterinary school, Penn and the entire field of genetics.”