PULLMAN, Wash. — The 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Irwin “Ernie” Rose and two Israeli colleagues last month. Rose, an enzymologist and emeritus researcher at the University of California, Irvine, attended Washington State College (now Washington State University) in the mid-1940s.

Rose said his years at WSC were influential in his path toward a scientific career, especially citing Herbert Eastlick, a prominent zoology teacher and mentor to many aspiring health care professionals during a career of more than three decades at the university. Eastlick Hall on the Pullman campus is named in his honor.

“I thought very highly of Dr. Eastlick. I had a problem in my qualitative analysis class and he helped me out,” Rose said. “He was also an inspiring teacher. He really had an important influence on me in terms of getting into the spirit of research.” Rose also admired Orlin Biddulph of the WSC botany department, whose early grasp of biochemistry Rose found impressive.

Rose was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1926. When he was 13, his family moved to Spokane to provide a drier environment for his brother who had suffered from rheumatic fever.

Rose’s interest in science focused at the age of 15, when he visited a Spokane library and thumbed through a copy of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The journal pages, filled with chemical formulae, fascinated him and he became “hooked on chemistry.” He graduated from Spokane’s Lewis and Clark High School in 1943.

Although he did not intend to become a doctor, he enrolled as a premedicine major at WSC because this allowed him to take the science courses he wanted. His roommate for the year was a veterinary science major who kept their bathtub full of chickens that were needed for a class project.

Rose completed a year and a summer session before leaving college to serve as a radio technician in the U.S. Navy. He spent two years at the end of World War II on ships in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and helped decommission his last ship, a troop carrier, when the war ended.

Eager to get going in his chosen direction, he returned to college and was drawn to Eastlick, an adviser to premedicine majors. Rose studied at WSC for another summer and the following two semesters.

By then Rose was determined to enter the field of biochemistry and, using benefits from the GI Bill, he could afford to move to the University of Chicago, which had an excellent reputation in the discipline. There he finished his undergraduate work and stayed on to earn a doctoral degree in biochemistry.

For nine years, he served on the faculty of the Yale University Medical School biochemistry department. In 1963 he joined Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia as a senior scientist and stayed there until he retired in 1995. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1979.

The Nobel Prize was awarded to Rose and to Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover, both from the Israel Institute of Technology, in recognition of their work on “the major pathway through which cellular building blocks, known as ubiquitin proteins, are regulated.” This work, which they did in the late 1970s and early 1980s, became the basis for the development of drugs that combat cancer, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

The mechanisms of enzymes have been Rose’s primary research interests throughout his career. However, Yale colleague Melvin Simpson had made a breakthrough in the protein-break-down field that intrigued Rose, and he decided to pursue it further. Later at a biology meeting in Bethesda, Md., he met Hershko and his student Ciechanover, who were involved in related research. Upon learning of their common interest, the two Israeli’s were pleased to spend sabbaticals as visiting scientists in Rose’s lab at Fox Chase.

“I was very surprised about the prize,” Rose said. “I always felt Hershko would get the prize.”

Rose is currently an emeritus researcher with the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the UC Irvine College of Medicine. He and his wife Zelda, a biochemist whom he met at Yale, live nearby. They have four children; one son lives in Seattle.

After being notified of his selection for the Nobel Prize, Rose was asked whose tutelage he wished to acknowledge. Eastlick was among those mentioned. Rose added that he hoped Dr. Eastlick was still living to hear of his receiving the prize. Eastlick died in 2002 and his wife, Margaret “Peg,” died Oct. 3 of this year.

Nobel Prizes are international awards given annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in the areas of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature, economics and peace.  They consist of a medal, a diploma and a cash prize.

Nobel Prize for Chemistry Press Release: http://nobelprize.org/chemistry/laureates/2004/press.html