UW News

May 1, 2015

UW biologist wins Saruhashi Prize for top woman scientist

UW News

Keiko Torii, a UW professor of biology, this month was awarded the 35th annual Saruhashi Prize, given each year to a female researcher in the natural sciences.

Each year, one woman scientist receives the award recognizing both exceptional research accomplishments and mentoring of other women scientists.

portrait in black sweater

Keiko Torii

“I am especially pleased that the selection committee recognized and highly valued my demonstrated mentoring of women postdocs balancing career and family,” Torii said. She has helped several researchers in her lab balance starting a family with publishing in major journals and moving to tenure-track faculty positions.

The prize was established in 1981 by Katsuko Saruhashi (1920-2007), a Japanese geochemist who made the first precise measurements of carbon dioxide and radioactive materials in ocean water, which was one of the scientific reasons for restricting nuclear bomb experiments in the Pacific Ocean.

Torii, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator who holds an endowed distinguished professorship at the UW, studies the development of plant cell structure. She earned her undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the University of Tsukuba in Japan before joining the UW biology faculty in 1996. She currently holds affiliate positions with UW Medicine’s Institute of Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine and Nagoya University in Japan.

She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the Washington state Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the 2015 Inoue Prize for Science.

The Saruhashi Prize recognizes Torii’s work on the “mechanism of cell-cell communication and stomatal development in plants.” A ceremony will be held May 23 in Japan.