Nobel neighbor

October 09, 2003

OF THE MANY reasons to admire Peter Agre of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, let's begin with this one: Dr. Agre has long been a proponent of the idea that you can be a successful scientist and have a fulfilling family life at the same time.

He's an active father of four who lives in Stoneleigh, with a day job in East Baltimore.

He's self-effacing, popular among his colleagues, and, oh yes, he's one of two winners of the 2003 Nobel Prize for chemistry.

Dr. Agre first appeared in The Sun in 1995 with a letter to the editor praising the performance of Mandy Patinkin in Evita, and going on to commend the actor for his decision to take a break from a television series in which he was appearing to spend more time with his family.

"When we have become numbed with reminders of how performers and public figures abuse their stations in life," wrote Dr. Agre, "it is exhilarating to learn that a few hold traditional values far above the advancement of their own careers and attainment of wealth."

To which we say: It is even more exhilarating to see someone who holds fast to traditional values - and nevertheless reaches the pinnacle of his profession. And that's just what Dr. Agre has done.

His work involves a class of proteins that control the movement of water into and out of cells; it has significant applications in disease research and in gaining a deeper understanding of life processes. The Swedish Academy, in its Nobel Prize announcement, called it a "decisive discovery."

In addition to his private and professional pursuits, Dr. Agre has recently taken on a public role as well; he has spoken out in favor of affirmative action, and is an advocate for a Texas scientist who he believes was wrongly indicted in the disappearance of 30 vials of plague bacteria. Dr. Agre calls the prosecution a "terrible overreaction" by a Justice Department determined to find terrorist plots even where none exists.

For all this, he is to be admired and congratulated. Keep up the good work - on every front.

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