Indian-Born Physicist And Molecular Biologist – A Noble Laureate
Venkatraman "Venki" Ramakrishnan (born 1952) is an Indian-born-American-British structural biologist. In 2009 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada Yonath, "for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome". He was elected President of the Royal Society for a term of five years starting in 2015. He received India's second-highest civilian honor, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2010. Ramakrishnan was knighted in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to Molecular Biology but does not generally use the title 'Sir'. Since 1999, he has worked as a group leader at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, UK.
Ramakrishnan was born in Chidambaram in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, India to C. V. Ramakrishnan and Rajalakshmi Ramakrishnan. Both his parents were scientists, and his father was head of the Department of Biochemistry at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. His mother obtained a Ph.D. in Psychology from McGill University in 1959 which she completed in only 18 months and was mentored by Donald O. Hebb.
Ramakrishnan moved to Vadodara (previously also known as Baroda) in Gujarat at the age of three, where he had his schooling at Convent of Jesus and Mary, except for spending 1960–61 in Adelaide, Australia. Following his pre-science at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, he did his undergraduate studies in the same university on a National Science Talent Scholarship, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics in 1971.
Immediately after graduation, he moved to the U.S., where he obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physics from Ohio University in 1976 for research into the ferroelectric phase transition of potassium dihydrogen phosphate (KDP) supervised by Tomoyasu Tanaka. He then spent two years studying biology as a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego while making a transition from theoretical physics to biology.
Ramakrishnan began work on ribosomes as a postdoctoral fellow with Peter Moore at Yale University. After his post-doctoral fellowship, he initially could not find a faculty position even though he had applied to about 50 universities in the U.S.
He continued to work on ribosomes from 1983-95 as a staff scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory. In 1995 he moved to the University of Utah as a Professor of Biochemistry, and in 1999, he moved to his current position at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, where he had also been a sabbatical visitor during 1991-92 on a Guggenheim Fellowship.
In 1999, Ramakrishnan's laboratory published a 5.5 Angstrom resolution structure of the 30S subunit. The following year, his laboratory determined the complete molecular structure of the 30S subunit of the ribosome and its complexes with several antibiotics. This was followed by studies that provided structural insights into the mechanism that ensures the fidelity of protein biosynthesis. In 2007, his laboratory determined the atomic structure of the whole ribosome in complex with its tRNA and mRNA ligands. Since 2013, he has primarily used cryo-EM to determine new ribosome structures. Ramakrishnan is also known for his past work on histone and chromatin structure.
Knight Bachelor's badge, to which Ramakrishnan became entitled in the 2012 New Year Honours
Ramakrishnan was elected a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in 2002, a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2003, and a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2004. In 2007, Ramakrishnan was awarded the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine and the Datta Lectureship and Medal of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS). In 2008, he won the Heatley Medal of the British Biochemical Society. Since 2008, he is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and a foreign Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy
Please click on the links below to see his inspirational journey.