Roger Tsien, the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine professor who shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry, has died at the age of 64.
Tsien’s work with green fluorescent protein derived from the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria allowed researchers to more clearly examine animal biology and molecular interactions. Additionally, surgeons removing cancerous or damaged tissues were better able to avoid peripheral nerves because he had helped to develop experimental injectable fluorescent peptides.
“I’ve always been attracted to colors. Color helps make the work more interesting and endurable,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2008 after winning the Nobel award together with Osamu Shimomura, an emeritus professor at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and Columbia University biological sciences professor Martin Chalfie.
UCSD announced Tsien’s death Aug. 31, saying he died seven days earlier in Eugene, Ore. The cause of death was not disclosed.
UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said Tsien was kind, generous and gracious, “the consummate scientist pushing the limits of his work to expand the possibilities of science.”
“Every honor was justly deserved, and always received with humility,” Khosla said in a news release.
The university’s vice chancellor, Dr. David A. Brenner, added that Tsien’s vision was “vast and yet incredibly precise.”
“He saw both the big picture, but also the incredible need to see and understand — in glorious color — all of the infinitesimal details that make it up, that make up life,” Brenner said in the release.
Born the third son of immigrant parents on Feb. 1, 1952 in New York City, Tsien earned degrees in chemistry and physics at Harvard College in 1972. He went on to earn a doctorate in physiology in 1977 at the University of Cambridge in England, and came to UCSD in 1989.