Liz Martin, Deseret Morning News
Mario Capecchi

Geneticist Mario R. Capecchi, the University of Utah's first Nobel Prize laureate, will be the featured speaker during the U.'s commencement ceremonies this spring.

U. President Michael K. Young made the announcement Monday during a meeting of the university's Board of Trustees.

The U.'s commencement is scheduled for May 2, 2008, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Capecchi is a distinguished professor of human genetics and biology and co-chairman of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah's Eccles Institute of Human Genetics. He also is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

In October, the Nobel Foundation awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to Capecchi, Sir Martin J. Evans of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, and Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

They won the prize for their work developing what is known as "gene targeting" or "knockout mouse technology" — a method that allows researchers to disable any gene in a mouse to determine what goes wrong and thus learn the gene's normal function.