Burley: Live a full and balanced life

It all goes much too quickly, Stephen Burley warned graduates at the Thursday afternoon session of Western’s 307th Convocation.

“Time is a very precious gift,” he said. “While building a career, don’t miss out on your children growing up, your parents growing old and the chance to see the world. It will all happen too quickly. Live a full and balanced life.”

Burley spoke to graduates from the Faculty of Science and School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the Thursday, June 16, afternoon session of Western’s 307th Convocation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Science, honoris causa, upon Burley for his work as an internationally renowned physician, scientist and visionary with demonstrated leadership in promoting multi-disciplinary initiatives with global impact.

Burley’s pioneering contributions to the field of structural biology, both within academia and the private sector, have established a foundation to transform clinical practice by enabling precision medicine through the discovery of drugs targeting underlying defects of disease. He is an internationally renowned physician scientist with expertise in clinical medicine, oncology, drug discovery and bioinformatics.

Since 2014, Burley has been the Director of the RCSB Protein Data Bank, the U.S. data centre for the Protein Data Bank, an international data resource containing more than 100,000 structures of large biomolecules. The Protein Data Bank is an exemplary, globally collaborative initiative, illustrating how ‘big data’ can be maintained as a freely accessible public good to advance basic and applied biomedical research worldwide.

In his citation, Western Biochemistry professor David Litchfield said Burley has played a significant role within the physical sciences, biomedical and life sciences and engineering to help set the stage for unprecedented changes in the understanding of complex biological processes and the underlying basis of human disease.

“He has made pioneering contributions, both within academia and in the private sector, that have established a foundation to promote a transformation in clinical practice by enabling precision medicine through the design of drugs tailored to precisely target the underlying defects responsible for individual diseases,” Litchfield said.

“Burley has translated his undergraduate training in physics at Western, and subsequent training at the world’s leading institutions, into international leadership as a physician-scientist and entrepreneur at the leading edge of inter-disciplinary initiatives with global impact that have laid the foundation for the emergence of precision medicine.”

Burley earned a B.Sc. in physics from Western in 1980. He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, achieving a D.Phil. in Molecular Biophysics and received his MD from Harvard Medical School in the joint Harvard/Massachusetts Institute of Technology Health Sciences & Technology program.

Since 2013, Burley has been a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where he also serves as Director of the Center for Integrative Proteomics Research, Founding Director of the Institute for Quantitative Biomedicine, and Member of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. In 1995, he was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.