Aziz Sancar PhD'77

"I started on DNA repair at UT Dallas, and I have continued for over 40 years on that path. The University has had a significant impact on my research."

A Nobel Laureate alumnus whose research reshaped the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology.

One of UT Dallas’ most distinguished graduates, Aziz Sancar PhD’77 came to the U.S. after serving as a physician in Turkey. As a graduate student at the University, he aimed to learn more about DNA repair and studied under the late Dr. Claud Stanley Rupert, who was a pioneer in the field.

Sancar’s work at UT Dallas focused on DNA repair in a bacterium, and he was the first to purify and describe the bacterial enzyme photolyase. After he graduated in 1977, Sancar continued his research as a laboratory technician at Yale University, where he worked for five years. His tenure at Yale ended after he was accepted as a lecturer at the University of North Carolina, where he is currently the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry.

At UNC, he is carrying out research on mapping human DNA repair and the molecular mechanism of the circadian clock.

Sancar was the first Turkish-American member of the National Academy of Sciences, which he was elected to in 2005. Four years later, Sancar received the UT Dallas Distinguished Alumni Award.

In 2015, Sancar received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the first Nobel-winning alum from UT Dallas. The researcher was also the recipient of the University’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

Sancar and his wife, Gwen Sancar MS’74, PhD’77, are the founders of the Aziz and Gwen Sancar Foundation, a nonprofit established to support and promote Turkish students in the U.S.