About Norm Pace
Pace was born and raised in a small farming community in Indiana. While in high school, he spent a summer doing research in an Indiana University microbiology lab. In his own words,
Pace graduated from Indiana University in 1964 with honors in microbiology. [CORRECTION: Pace earned a B.A. (with honors) in bacteriology, which could be referred to as the precursor to IU Biology's microbiology degree.]
Pace was a Professor and Distinguished Professor of Biology at Indiana University from 1984 to 1996, during which time he revolutionized microbial ecology in ways that allowed the “unseen 99 percent” to be revealed. His ribosomal RNA gene sequencing enabled scientists to study, for the first time, the 99 percent of microbes that could not be grown in the laboratory and were thus considered inaccessible for study. This work “blew the door off the microbial world,” ushering in the modern age of microbial ecology, including metagenomics and microbiome research. Without it, our understanding of the human microbiome would be years behind where it stands now.
Pace is also celebrated for his revolutionary co-discovery that RNA, like protein, can act in catalysis and thus serve as an enzyme.
Pace received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1967. He was an Assistant, Associate, and Professor of Biophysics and Genetics at the University of Colorado Medical Center, Denver (1969-84); Professor and Distinguished Professor of Biology and Chemistry at Indiana University (1984-96); Professor of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California at Berkeley (1996-99); and Professor and Distinguished Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder (1999-present).
Pace is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the Waksman Award for Excellence in Microbiology, a MacArthur “Genius” award, and the 2017 Massry prize in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the biomedical sciences and the advancement of health. He has received lifetime achievement awards from the American Society for Microbiology, the International Society for Microbial Ecology, and the RNA Society. He has been a key consultant of the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board on a variety of issues since the 1980s. A superb and inspiring teacher, both in the classroom and research laboratory, many of his numerous postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate trainees are leaders in academia and industry. In keeping with his Hoosier heritage, Pace is also a renowned spelunker: He has explored more than 100 caves and was the 1987 recipient of the Lew Bicking Award, the highest honor that American cave explorers can achieve.