DURHAM—Duke University is now home to a Nobel Prize winner.
Dr. Robert Lefkowitz and his former student Brian Kobilka were named Nobel Prize winners in chemistry. It was a wake up call that changed the course of the day for Lefkowitz.
“Right at 5 a.m., I got an elbow and she said it's Stockholm calling and obviously the first thing that goes through my mind was obviously they're not calling about the weather in Durham it must be important," said Lefkowitz.
The call was about the Nobel Prize. Lefkowitz shares the honor with his former student Dr. Brian Kobilka, a professor at Stanford University.
“I asked if I'm sharing this prize and they said yes with Dr. Kobilka and that was just the best,” said Lefkowitz.
In the 1980's at Duke University, the pair began researching a family of G-protein coupled receptors. What they uncovered was how body cells sense and react to outside signals.
Their discoveries have helped improve prescription drugs.
"One of the pathway may cause the effects you want and the other pathway may cause what we call side effects so now, whereas before you had no choice anything you put on it would do both things. We didn't even now this existed, now you can design drugs that might do one or the other," said Lefkowitz.
Students and faculty say the recognition is well deserved.
"He's mentored literally hundreds of young scientists so I think it would be great to start calling him Coach L to go with our Coach K," said Dean of Duke University School of Medicine Nancy Andrews.
Yet even with all the attention, Lefkowitz insists he won't be asking people to address him as a Nobel Prize winner.
"My stationary is not going to look any different. If people know I won the Nobel Prize great, if they don't I am not going to tell them. I really hope it changes me as little as possible. I can't imagine it will," said Lefkowitz.
Lefkowitz is the second professor in the triangle to be honored with the Nobel Prize in the last decade. Dr. Oliver Smithies of UNC Chapel Hill won the prize in physiology or medicine in 2007.
The Nobel Prize for literature will be announced Thursday.
Watch Wednesday's full press conference below:
News 14: Duke professor shares Nobel Prize in chemistry with Stanford professor
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