Aziz Sancar

Aziz Sancar

Aziz Sancar
Born (1946-09-08) September 8, 1946
Savur, Mardin, Turkey
Citizenship Turkish and American
Alma mater
Notable awards
Spouses Gwen Sancar[3]

Aziz Sancar (born 8 September 1946) is a Turkish-American biochemist and molecular biologist specializing in DNA repair, cell cycle checkpoints, and the circadian clock.[4] In 2015, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Tomas Lindahl and Paul L. Modrich for their mechanistic studies of DNA repair.[5][6]

He is the co-founder of the Aziz and Gwen Sancar Foundation, which is a non-profit organization to promote Turkish culture and to support Turkish students in the United States.[3]


  • Early life and career 1
  • Education 2
  • Awards 3
  • Ethnicity debate 4
  • References 5
  • External Links 6

Early life and career

Aziz Sancar was born into a lower-middle-class Arabic-speaking family in the Savur district of Mardin Province, southeastern Turkey on September 8, 1946.[7][8] He was the seventh of eight children. His parents were illiterate; however, they put great emphasis on education.[9] In an interview with Turkish news agency T24, Sancar stated that during his youth, he was a nationalist.[10] He is the cousin of HDP Mardin deputy Mithat Sancar.[11]

Aziz Sancar is honorary member of the Turkish Academy of Sciences[12] and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[13]

His longest-running study has involved photolyase and the mechanisms of photo-reactivation. In his inaugural article in the PNAS, Sancar captures the elusive photolyase radicals he has chased for nearly 20 years, thus providing direct observation of the photocycle for thymine dimer repair.[14]

Aziz Sancar was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 as the first Turkish-American member.[14] He is the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is married to Gwen Boles Sancar, who graduated the same year and who is also a Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[15] Together, they founded Carolina Turk Evi, a permanent Turkish Center in close proximity to the campus of UNC-CH, which provides graduate housing for four Turkish researchers at UNC-CH, short term guest services for Turkish visiting scholars, and a center for promoting Turkish-American interchange.[3]


Sancar received his primary education near his hometown of Savur.[10] He then completed his M.D. degree in Istanbul University of Turkey and completed his Ph.D. degree on the photoreactivating enzyme of E. coli in 1977 at the University of Texas at Dallas[16] in the laboratory of Dr. C. Stan Rupert, now Professor Emeritus.


He was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Tomas Lindahl and Paul L. Modrich for their mechanistic studies of DNA repair.[5][6] Sancar is the second Turkish Nobel laureate after Orhan Pamuk, who is also an alumnus of Istanbul University.

Ethnicity debate

In the immediate aftermath of winning the Nobel Prize, debates arose on social media over his ethnicity.[17][18][19][20] When questioned as to whether he is "Arab or half Turkish" by the BBC, Aziz Sancar responded by saying he was disturbed by such remarks.[20][18] He stated: "I do not speak Arabic nor Kurdish. I am Turkish. That’s it."[17] He then referred to the English people as "gâvur" (i.e. "infidels") who he blamed for stirring problems in the Middle East.[21][22]


  1. ^ "Geçmiş Yıllarda Bilim Ödülü Alanlar" (in Turkish). Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  2. ^ "Ödül Alanlar". Vehbi Koç Award. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Aziz & Gwen Sancar Foundation – Carolina Türk Evi – Turkish House, NC". Retrieved 7 October 2015. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Broad, William J. (7 October 2015). "Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar for DNA Studies".  
  6. ^ a b Staff (7 October 2015). "THE NOBEL PRIZE IN CHEMISTRY 2015 - DNA repair – providing chemical stability for life" ( 
  7. ^ "I spoke Arabic with my parents". CNN Turk. 11 October 2015. 
  8. ^ "Nobel Prize in Chemistry: how our DNA repairs itself". Deutsch Welle. 7 October 2015. 
  9. ^ "Nobel Kimya Ödülü'nü Türk asıllı Aziz Sancar kazandı (Aziz Sancar kimdir)".  
  10. ^ a b "Nobel'li Prof. Aziz Sancar: Lise yıllarında ülkücüydüm; sinema ve tiyatroya hiç gitmedim". T24. 11 October 2015. 
  11. ^ "Turkish-American scientist among winners of 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry".  
  12. ^ "Prof. Dr. Aziz Sancar". Turkish Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  13. ^ "American Academy Announces 2004 Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Zagorski, N. (2005). "Profile of Aziz Sancar". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 (45): 16125–16127.  
  15. ^ "Biology : Aziz Sancar elected to the National Academy of Sciences". Retrieved 7 October 2015. 
  16. ^ "Aziz Sancar".  
  17. ^ a b Arango, Tim (12 October 2015). "Deadly Ankara Attack Not Enough to Unify a Polarized Turkey". New York Times. 
  18. ^ a b "Sancar: Ben Türk'üm o kadar" (in Turkish). Milliyet. 8 October 2015. 
  19. ^ "Nobel'e değer görülen Aziz Sancar, HDP'li Mithat Sancar'ın akrabası". Hurriyet. 7 October 2015. 
  20. ^ a b "Nobel Prize winner Aziz Sancar dedicates award to Turkey". BGN News. 8 October 2015. 
  21. ^ "Aziz Sancar: "Kürt müsün, Arap mı?" diye soran muhabire kızdım, Allah'ın gâvuru hala buraları karıştırıyor". T24. 18 October 2015. 
  22. ^ "Aziz Sancar, Nobel'den kazandığı parayı nereye bağışlayacağını açıkladı".  

External Links

  • Aziz Sancar Quotes With Pictures