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DULUTH - The science laboratories at the University of Minnesota-Duluth may have changed since 1977 grad Brian Kobilka was in school, but his former professors remember the quick witted scientist all the same.
"I mean there wasn't a situation that arose where he didn't handle himself with poise and humor and a great deal of understanding no matter how challenging that might be," said Bob Carlson, a chemistry professor at UMD.
The result of Kobilka's hard work in college and the years after is the prestigious Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
His professors aren't the least bit surprised.
"He was kind of a leader of a cohort of five or six really outstanding students and that was during his first year in general biology," said Conrad Firling, emeritus professor of biology at UMD.
Kobilka began research as a freshman undergrad, majoring in both biology and chemistry.
He became so involved in his research, professors Firling and Carlson had to set up a collaboration between the two classes just to keep up with him.
"He was the first person to do that. Now of course, it turns out at UMD there are a lot more professors in that transition area between biology and chemistry," said Carlson.
Kobilka graduated from UMD, moving on to stops at Yale, Washington University in St. Louis, Duke and now Stanford, where he currently teaches.
It's his work there, on how cells in our body sense their environments, which have been key for developing better drugs and led to the Nobel Prize.
Carlson said, "He was able to identify that there were these receptors on the surface of these cells responded and acted accordingly to regulate what was going on in a cell."
His professors hope that the award helps students believe that they too can become the next great scientist to come out of UMD.
"I think it has implications for our students to see what can happen with getting yourself involved in a research program and being motivated by our faculty it is possible for them to achieve great things," said Carlson.