Thomas R. Cech, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Colorado Boulder
Director of Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology PhD Program
University of Colorado Boulder
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

B.A. (1970) – Grinnell College, Iowa (Chemistry)
Ph.D. (1975) – University of California, Berkeley (Chemistry)
Postdoctoral Fellow (1975-77) – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Molecular Biology)

In 1978, Thomas R. Cech joined the faculty of the University of Colorado Boulder, where he became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator in 1988 and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1990.

In 1982 Dr. Cech and his research group announced that an RNA molecule from Tetrahymena could by itself catalyze biochemical reactions, the first exception to the long-held belief that only proteins could act as enzymes.

In January 2000, Dr. Cech moved to Maryland as President of the HHMI, our country's largest private biomedical research organization.  In addition, HHMI has an $80 million/year grants program that supports science education at all levels (K-12 through medical school) and international research.

In April 2009, Dr. Cech returned to full-time research and teaching at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he served as Director of the University of Colorado Biofrontiers Institute until 2020.

Dr. Cech's work has been recognized by many national and international awards and prizes, including the Heineken Prize of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (1988), the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (1988), the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1989), and the National Medal of Science (1995). In 1987 Dr. Cech was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and also awarded a lifetime professorship by the American Cancer Society. In 2000, he was elected to the National Institute of Medicine.