Biography of Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

American Structural Biologist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan Biography
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Venkatraman “Venki” Ramakrishnan is an Indian-born American structural biologist, who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath, “for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome”.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan currently works at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan Early Life

Ramakrishnan was born in Chidambaram in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, India to C. V. Ramakrishnan and Rajalakshmi. Both his parents were scientists and taught biochemistry at the Maharaj Sayajirao University in Baroda.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan moved to Baroda ( Vadodara ) in Gujarat state 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 B.Sc. in Physics in 1971.

In a January 2010 lecture at the Indian Institute of Science, he revealed that he failed to get admitted at any of the Indian Institutes of Technology, or Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu.

Immediately after graduation he moved to the U.S.A., where he obtained his Ph.D. in Physics from Ohio University in 1976.
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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.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan Career

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.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan 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 1991-2.

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. More recently, his laboratory has determined the atomic structure of the whole ribosome in complex with its tRNA and mRNA ligands.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan Honors

Ramakrishnan is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a member of EMBO and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He was awarded the 2007 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, the 2008 Heatley Medal of the British Biochemical Society and the 2009 Rolf-Sammet Professorship at the University of Frankfurt. In 2009, Ramakrishnan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada Yonath. He received India’s second highest civilian honor, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2010.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan Personal Life

Ramakrishnan is married to Vera Rosenberry, an author and illustrator of children’s books. He has a stepdaughter, Tanya Kapka, who is a doctor in Oregon, and a son, Raman Ramakrishnan, who is a cellist based in New York who plays with the Daedalus Quartet.