Distinguished Alumni Award for Nobel Prize winner

Professor Koen Lamberts and Sir Rich Roberts

Sir Rich Roberts with his Distinguished Alumni Award medalAt this weekend’s American Alumni Reunion in San Francisco, we were delighted to celebrate the longstanding support of one of our most renowned graduates – Sir Richard Roberts.

Sir Richard, or Rich as he prefers to be known, is one of the University’s six Nobel Prize winners, having been awarded the 1993 prize in Physiology/ Medicine. Rich studied chemistry at Sheffield during the 1960s, receiving a BSc in 1965 and a PhD in 1968, followed by an honorary degree in 1994.

After completing his PhD, Sir Richard moved to Harvard to complete his post-doctoral studies, which opened his eyes to the opportunities available to scientific researchers in the United States. Despite a desire to return to the UK, the offer of a project from Dr James Watson (one of the discoverers of DNA) was too difficult to turn down.

At this time, Sir Richard’s work started shifting from pure chemistry towards molecular biology. Sir Richard was working with adenovirus genes (the common cold virus) and through comparison of viral RNA with its complementary DNA, he (along with Dr Philip Sharp working independently at MIT) were able to discover more about the structure of genes and DNA. This pioneering work on DNA sequencing and genetic engineering, and his discovery of the alternative splicing of genes, in particular, has had a profound impact on the study and applications of molecular biology. It also led to Sir Richard and Dr Sharp sharing the 1993 Nobel Prize for Physiology/ Medicine.

Since then Sir Richard has remained in the US and continued his work, focusing on the restriction and modification of genes, for which he has been in frequent contact with the University’s Krebs Institute.

The Richard Roberts Building, opened in 2005 and named in honour of Sir RichardOn the back of his 6 years at Sheffield, Rich has been a dedicated supporter of the University as a volunteer, a donor, a speaker and as an ambassador. For over 15 years, he was the Chair of the University of Sheffield in America, and as well as being a donor himself, he has helped in the University’s philanthropic efforts, building new connections within the USA. He has also delivered numerous lectures for the University both on campus – especially for science outreach to children – and overseas, and is one of the University’s greatest ambassadors.

Sir Richard was also good friends with our late Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Boucher, after whom the Distinguished Alumni Award is named, and spearheaded the idea of a fundraising appeal in Professor Boucher’s memory.

It seems only appropriate to recognise such dedicated and longstanding support on the occasion of his stepping down as Chair of the University of Sheffield in America. We are extremely grateful to Sir Richard for all he has done to support the University and are proud to count him among our most distinguished alumni.


The Professor Robert Boucher Distinguished Alumni Award, for alumni of the University, is named in honour of the late former Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Boucher.

Professor Boucher had a great interest in alumni relations and gave so much to the city of Sheffield over a period of 40 years. He fully appreciated the important contribution that alumni continue to play in the life of a University and was responsible for establishing the University´s Development and Alumni Relations Office in 2002.

Find out more about our Distinguished Alumni Awards

Find out more about the University of Sheffield in America

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