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Peter Mazur (1985)


Life Sciences Division

For internationally recognized basic research in cryobiology -- the study of freezing and preserving living cells -- which has contributed to the use of frozen cell and tissue banks and stimulated development of a rapidly growing livestock breeding industry using frozen cattle embryos.

Dr. Mazur received his A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1949 and his Ph.D. in biology from Harvard in 1953. After four years with the Air Force's Research and Development Command, he spent two years at Princeton University as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow before joining the staff of the Biology Division in 1959.

His field is cryobiology, the branch of biology that is concerned with the response of living cells to freezing and very low temperatures. All living cells require liquid water and appropriate temperatures to function. Freezing constitutes a dramatic perturbation of these conditions, and consequently a study of how cells respond to this perturbation may help elucidate the role of liquid water in living cells. Furthermore, the response of cells to freezing involves fundamental physiological processes like osmotic flow, and freezing injury primarily involves damage to the cell outer membrane, a vital, complex, and poorly understood component of living cells.

In addition to these fundamental aspects of cryobiology, Dr. Mazur is concerned with the applications of cryobiology to medicine, agriculture, and genetics. For example, his laboratory was the first to freeze early mammalian embryos, a finding that is having substantial impact in all three areas.

Currently the leader of the fundamental and applied cryobiology group, he is a past president of the Society for Cryobiology and a current member of the editorial board of the society's journal. Dr. Mazur has authored more than 120 scientific papers, four of which have been named "Citation Classics."

He has served on a number of advisory panels, including the Harvard University Board of Overseers Visiting Committee to Biology and the National Academy of Sciences Space Science Board and Germplasm Resources Committee. In 1985 he was named Author of the Year by Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, he is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a John Harvard Fellow and a Sigma Xi National Lecturer.

In 1993 he received an R&D 100 Award and the Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Tissue Banks. In February 1998, he was appointed Research Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In May 1998, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

He was appointed a corporate fellow in 1985.

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