In October 2001, former GCC student Leland Hartwell received the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for his cancer-related research on cell function. He pioneered the use of genetics to define the cell cycle and understand it’s control and role in carcinogenesis, and he discovered a specific class of genes that control the cell cycle. From 1973 to 2000, Hartwell received over 20 professional awards in his field.
Hartwell grew up in Glendale, and had an insatiable desire to understand how things worked. He hung out in the public library, collected bugs, and disassembled and reassembled radios which led to his interest in electricity. In 1957 he came to GCC from high school with no particular plan and a spotty academic record. He took physics and math classes in the engineering tract. After a year at GCC, his academic advisor suggested that he meet with a recruiter from Caltech. Things began to really change for him at this point. He was excited over this new prospect and took the entrance exam and was accepted. He started out studying physics, and then microbiology, eventually earning his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964. He is currently president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. His most recent passion has switched his focus from research to leadership. He also loves to teach and has taught genetics and cell biology at the University of Washington.
Hartwell says, “I came from a non-academic family, and I would have never gone to Caltech if it hadn’t been for a couple of key people at Glendale College. I’m impressed at how much impact people who are really dedicated to the teaching profession contribute, and they probably never even know it.”