NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- One of the winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott issued a statement Wednesday congratulating Robert Lefkowitz.
Walcott said Lefkowitz is the eighth Bronx Science graduate to win a Nobel Prize which "reflects the top-notch education offered in our schools."
Lefkowitz is one of two American researchers who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for studies of protein receptors that let body cells sense and respond to outside signals like danger or the flavor of food.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka had made groundbreaking discoveries, mainly in the 1980s, on an important family of receptors, known as G-protein-coupled receptors.
About half of all medications act on these receptors, including beta blockers and antihistamines, so learning about them will help scientists to come up with better drugs.
"They work as a gateway to the cell," Lefkowitz told a news conference in Stockholm by phone. "As a result they are crucial --- to regulate almost every known physiological process with humans."
Lefkowitz, 69, is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.
He said he was fast asleep when the Nobel committee called, but he didn't hear it because he was wearing ear plugs. So his wife picked up the phone.
"She said, 'There's a call here for you from Stockholm,'" Lefkowitz told The Associated Press. "I knew they ain't calling to find out what the weather is like in Durham today."
He said he didn't have an "inkling" that he was being considered for the Nobel Prize.
"Initially, I expected I'd have this huge burst of excitement. But I didn't. I was comfortably numb," Lefkowitz said.
The U.S. has dominated the Nobel chemistry prize in recent years, with American scientists being included among the winners of 17 of the past 20 awards.
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