She was recognized for her work in Spinocerebellar ataxia, which is bringing insights into Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Dr. Zoghbi was the only female award winner at the Breakthrough Prizes 2017, now in their fifth year.
The awards were founded by the likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sergey Brin among others and receive widespread media coverage, not just for the size of the prizemoney, but also the star-studded event at which they are announced. Part of the organizers' aim is to introduce some "razzmatazz" into science prizes, describing their winners as "the real rock stars", according to the BBC.
The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported:
“It is not often that a scientist walks the red carpet at a Silicon Valley party and has Morgan Freeman award them millions of dollars while Alicia Keys performs on stage and other A-listers rub shoulders with Nasa astronauts. But the guest list for the Breakthrough prize ceremony is intended to make it an occasion.”
The Breakthrough Prize 2017, which is given for the year ahead, rounds off a remarkable year for Dr. Zoghbi who also scooped the biennial Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal, a Shaw Prize, and a Mechthild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science.
Dr. Zoghbi is a professor of pediatrics, molecular and human genetics, and neurology and neuroscience at Baylor, and director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital.
She graduated from AUB with a BS in Biology in 1976, received her MD from Meharry Medical College in 1979, and holds honorary doctorates from Middlebury College, Meharry Medical College, and Yale University.
She is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a member of the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
She is also studious in avoiding the limelight if possible and supremely modest about the accolades she achieves.
“Material things and limelight are fleeting, they come and go. You could give me all the money in the world to do another job and I wouldn’t do it,” she told the Guardian. “I am working on something that will help people, and that reward is with you every day.”
The newspaper reported her plans for the $3 million award included to set up a mentorship award, a fund to help young postdocs pursue their own ideas, and scholarships at AUB.