Craig Mello and the Nobel Prize

By December 10, 2006General

Allow us a rare personal indulgence if you will, one that will touch on manufacturing, we promise.

Every year, the blogger-in-chief, the blogteen and the first blog-spouse go to Oak Shade Farm in Rixeyville, Virginia, about 60 miles west of DC to cut down the family Christmas tree. The farm is run by Jim and Sally Mello. Jim is a Brown University grad who retired from the Smithsonian years ago and quite literally headed for the hills, runs his farm out in Rixeyville with a great view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

So every year we get a flyer from Jim & Sally, reminding us that Oak Shade Farm is open for business and reminding us of their dates and hours of operation. This year, the flyer arrived as usual, with one heart-stopping addition. In the text of the flyer, it noted that Jim & Sally’s farm would be closed for a few days in mid-December while they travel to Stockholm, Sweden to see their son receive the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

The Nobel Prize for Medicine.

We’ll admit, this was a bit of a grabber. And so we Googled, “Mello” and “Nobel Prize” and found out that sure enough, their son Craig, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts, is receiving the Nobel Prize with Andrew Fire of Stanford for their work on RNA interference. So we e-mailed Jim and Sally right away to congratulate them on their son’s tremendous accomplishment. In fact, all winners this year (save for Peace) are Americans. The Prizes are awarded every year on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

We went out last week to see them — and to get our tree — and had a good chat. Their pride, understandably, is palpable. We started to say this was a “once in a lifetime” achievement then stopped ourselves, because it is far more than that, more like once in a few million lifetimes. We asked Sally if she had any advice for the blogteen, as a mother of a Nobel Prize winner. She said, “Stay close to nature,” as their family is one that loves nature. And she noted Craig’s innate inquisitiveness and fascination with nature and things, a fascination his parents shared and encouraged. She mentioned Craig’s passion about the need for more funding for science and research, and mentioned that yes, without manufacturers, there’d be precious little research at all, in that we make all the stuff that makes this critical research possible.

And so today, Jim and Sally Mello are in Stockholm with their boy Craig, a product of the Fairfax County (Virginia) public schools, whose incredible tenacity and gift for wonder led him to this great discovery and to the pinnacle of honors, the Nobel Prize. We are honored to know them, to be a ring or two out from the notoriety, but to celebrate with them this great day for Craig and for American ingenuity.