Irwin “Ernie” Rose

University Names Irwin Rose Recipient of its Highest Alumni Award

Irwin “Ernie” Rose, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, will receive Washington State University’s highest honor for its alumni on October 14 on the Pullman campus. He will be the 35th recipient of the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus/a Award.

Dr. Rose has had a distinguished career in the field of biochemistry and is one of the nation’s leading scientists. He served on the Yale University Medical School biochemistry faculty for nine years and then moved to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia in 1963. He served there as senior scientist until his retirement in 1995. Dr. Rose’s primary research thrust is on the mechanisms of enzymes.

The work for which he won the Nobel Prize was initiated at Fox Chase in the late 1970s and concerned “how cells control a number of central processes by breaking down certain proteins but not others. Examples of processes governed by ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation are cell division, DNA repair, quality control of newly produced proteins and important parts of the immune defense.”

The award-winning work was done with two scientists from Israel, Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko, who are co-recipients of the Nobel Prize. Their joint discoveries may lead to the development of drugs to combat Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and cervical cancer.

Dr. Rose was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in 1979. In 1997, after retiring from Fox Chase, he accepted a special appointment as emeritus researcher at the University of California at Irvine, where he continues to have research responsibilities.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1926, Dr. Rose grew up in Spokane, graduated from Lewis and Clark High School there in 1943, and studied at Washington State University (then named Washington State College) between 1943 and 1947, interrupted by service in the Navy during World War II. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago and went on to earn his Ph.D. in biochemistry there.

Dr. Rose noted that his years at WSC were influential in his path toward a scientific career, especially citing pre-medicine advisor Herbert Eastlick. He remembers Dr. Eastlick as an inspiring teacher who introduced him to the world of research. He also admired Orlin Biddulph of the WSC Department of Botany whose grasp of biochemistry Dr. Rose found impressive.

Established in 1962, the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus/a Award honors alumni “who shall have made a truly distinguished contribution to society, or who, through personal achievement, shall have brought distinction to Washington State University.”

Previous honorees include broadcaster Edward R. Murrow; nationally-known sociologists William Julius Wilson and James E. Blackwell; scientists Philip Neva and John Abelson; Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft; and Sherman Alexie, Native American poet, author and film director.