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Prof. Sara Fuchs received her doctoral diploma, as did the others in her class, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But her final oral presentation was at the Weizmann Institute – in those days given before an audience of family, friends, peers and outside examiners – and she recalls it with emotion: After the Feinberg dean had ceremoniously deemed her worthy of a doctorate, Fuchs’ father, an observant Jew, was moved to stand and repeat the “Shehekhianu” – the prayer for new beginnings.
Fuchs had married her high school sweetheart while completing her M.Sc. degree in chemistry and physics at the Hebrew University, but they moved to Rehovot when she began her doctoral studies at Weizmann under Prof. Michael Sela. There, she dove into research on synthetic antigens. Sela, she recalls, had a single room with a table in the middle that served as office and lab. Fuchs spent many hours there; and while completing her doctorate she also managed to give birth to two of her three children.
The family then traveled abroad for the first time, and Sara conducted postdoctoral research in the lab of Prof. Christian Anfinsen at the National Institutes of Health. (In 1972, he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.)
A few years after returning to Weizmann, Fuchs undertook collaborative research with Prof. Israel Silman that gave direction to the rest of her career. Investigating the enzyme acetylcholinesterase and its receptor, she made the discovery that the cell receptor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine plays a role in the autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis. Fuchs turned her efforts to deciphering the receptor structure and the nature of and therapy for myasthenia gravis. She also investigated the role played by dopamine receptors in schizophrenia, pointing toward possible diagnostic tests. Though now “retired” and the grandmother of ten, Fuchs continues her research. On her office wall is a framed poster with photos of the many students who have been, she says, a valued part of her Institute career.