Sidney Emeritus Fellow Professor Sir John Walker FRS will be celebrating his Honorary Doctorate of Science at a Congregation today alongside other distinguished Honorands. Here we learn more about John’s impressive career.

John studied Chemistry at St Catherine’s College Oxford and in 1969, he was awarded the DPhil degree for Studies of Antibiotics at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in Oxford. 

Professor Sir John Walker

Professor Sir John Walker

John cultivated his expertise in the analysis of proteins during periods of research at the University of Wisconsin and The Pasteur Institute in Paris. In 1974, he joined The Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. It was here that John developed his interest in the mitochondria - special compartments (organelles) in our cells best known for their role as powerhouses in the breakdown of food molecules into ATP (adenosine triphosphate) 

Whilst studying the features of DNA molecules found in the mitochondria, John became interested in the question of how energy in food is transferred into ATP. Further work led John to the discovery that the ATP synthase is a molecular machine, and that the energy released from food intake drives the synthesis of ATP by a mechanical rotary mechanism. It was this important work that led to the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1997. John was elected to Sidney’s Fellowship that same year.

John is currently the Director Emeritus at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit and continues to delve deeper into the mechanism of the ATP synthase. His current interests include looking at how the ATP synthase machine is assembled within the mitochondria. John’s passion for linking his research into mitochondria with neuromuscular and neurodegenerative disease and ageing has been used by the medical world to develop new drugs against tuberculosis. 

Having been awarded fifteen honorary doctorates from universities around the globe, John looks forward to celebrating his Honorary Doctorate of Science at Cambridge among a group of esteemed academics. The other Honorands receiving or celebrating Honorary Doctorates in Cambridge today are Professor Edith Heard (Emmanuel), Professor Sir Roger Penrose (St John's), Professor Elizabeth Robertson (Darwin), Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah (Clare), Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr (Clare), Professor Sir Simon Schama (Christ's), Dr Ali Smith (Newnham), Professor Wole Soyinka (Churchill) and Dr Judith Weir (King's). 

The Sidney community extends many congratulations to John and all those mentioned above, and we hope that they enjoy this special occasion.


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