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The annual Burdette Distinguished Lecture in Molecular Genetics is made possible by the continuing generosity of Walter Burdette imageWalter J. Burdette, M.D., Ph.D.J. Burdette, M.D., Ph.D., through his endowment to the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences (ILS) Graduate Programs (formerly the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology).

Dr. Burdette (1915-2006), was a distinguished surgeon, clinician and researcher.  He completed his B.A. at Baylor University in 1935; in 1936 and 1938, respectively, Dr. Burdette earned Masters and Doctoral degrees at the University of Texas at Austin; in 1942, Dr. Burdette completed studies for a medical degree from Yale University. Until his retirement, Dr. Burdette practiced cardiovascular and thoracic surgery. He participated in the Surgeon General's 1964 report that made the connection between smoking and cancer/cardiovasculor diseases. During his career, he was a researcher, a professor of surgery and an author, with more than 200 published books and articles to his credit. His most recent book, The Basis for Gene Therapy, was published in 2001.

Established in 1999, the Walter J. Burdette Distinguished Lecture Series continues the tradition of genetic research in which Dr. Burdette himself participated and to which he made meaningful contributions. The 2013 Burdette Lecture, "Implications of Telomere Maintenance in Aging-related Processes", was presented by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, the 2009 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine.  Previous distinguished lecturers have included several other Nobel Laureates and Howard Hughes Investigators: Dr. Robert Weinberg, Dr. David Baltimore, Dr. Joan Steitz, Dr. Eric Weischaus, Dr. Michael Brown, Dr. Gerald Rubin, Dr. Patrick Brown, Dr. Steven McKnight, Dr. Andrew McMahon, Dr. Andrew Fire, Dr. Sean Carroll, Dr. Thomas Steitz, Dr. Roger Tsiene, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, Dr. Bruce Beutler, and Dr. Randy Schekman.