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Dr. Peter Agre talks with ECU students, including Evan Wells, right, Monday at the Brody Medical Sciences Building. (Photo by Doug Boyd)

Nobel Laureate lectures, shares discussion at ECU

April 24, 2012

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Peter Agre said much of what he does now is “science diplomacy” during a Monday visit to East Carolina University.

Agre, who shared the 2003 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Roderick MacKinnon, had a wide-ranging discussion during a lunch break with students at the Brody Medical Sciences Building.

“Science is a way we can bring the world together,” Agre said while discussing his worldwide travels and meetings with scientific and political leaders in various countries.

He and students talked about the state of science and scientific career opportunities, health care financing, the national debt and Agre’s near-run for Minnesota’s U.S. Senate seat in 2008.

Of all topics, however, it was Agre’s 2006 appearance on the television show “The Colbert Report” that held students’ attention the best. He was representing the group Scientists and Engineers for America, which advocates sound science in government. See excerpts from the show at

“You can work for five decades in a lab, and nobody cares, and you’re on ‘The Colbert Report’ for five minutes, and people are, ‘Wow!’” he said, drawing laughter from students.

Agre is a physician, molecular biologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University. He received the Nobel Prize for his discovery of aquaporins, water-channel proteins that move water molecules through the cell membrane. He has since turned his focus to the study of malaria.

While at ECU, Agre also gave a lecture on aquaporins and visited with medical faculty members and administrators. He was in Greenville as a guest of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the medical school.


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