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Nobel Laureate Roger Tsien Dies

Roger Tsien, who shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry, has died, the University of California, San Diego, has announced. He was 64. His cause of death has not been determined, though the Los Angeles Times says he died while on a bike trail in Eugene, Ore.

Tsien was awarded the Nobel along with Woods Hole's Osamu Shimomura and Columbia University's Martin Chalfie for their discovery and development of green fluorescent protein (GFP) from a jellyfish protein into a laboratory tool.

"Our work is often described as building and training molecular spies," Tsien once said, according to UCSD. "Molecules that will enter a cell or organism and report back to us what the conditions are, what's going on with the biochemistry, while the cell is still alive."

UCSD adds that Tsien became interested in chemistry at a young age — his first Boy Scout merit badge was in chemistry. He also won the Westinghouse Talent Search at 16 before studying chemistry and physics as an undergraduate at Harvard University. He then earned a doctorate in physiology from the University of Cambridge, where he was a research fellow for a few years before joining UC-Berkeley and then UCSD.

"Rarely are the smartest people the most creative too, but Roger was both," Barry Sharpless, a Nobel laureate from the Scripps Research Institute, tells the Los Angeles Times.

Tsien also once stood off with another laureate, James Watson, over Watson's comments about oxidants and antioxidants in cancer research. After the verbal sparring, Tsien told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "You should take all elderly scientists with a grain of salt — including me."