Dr. Cech graduated from Grinnell in 1970 with a degree in chemistry and from the University of California-Berkeley in 1975 with a Ph.D. He serves as Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado-Boulder and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Previously, he also served as president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was the 1989 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his research finding that RNA can act as a catalyst for biologically important chemical reactions. In 1995, President Clinton awarded him the Medal of Science. Dr. Cech was part of a research team that discovered the human gene for the enzyme telomerase in 1997. In 1987, he received an honorary degree from Grinnell.