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News from the National Academies

Date:  Jan. 28, 2009

Contacts:   Maureen O'Leary, Director of Public Information 

Luwam Yeibio, Media Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

 

Academy Honors 18 for Major Contributions to Science

 

WASHINGTON -- The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will honor 18 individuals in 2009 with awards recognizing extraordinary scientific achievements in the areas of biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, social sciences, psychology, and application of science for the public good.

 

The recipients for 2009 are:

 

Graham Allison, Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, is the recipient of the NAS Award for Behavioral Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War.  Allison is being honored for illuminating alternative ways of thinking about political decision making with special relevance to crises, including nuclear crises, as demonstrated in his groundbreaking Essence of Decision and subsequent works.  The award, established by the gift of William and Katherine Estes, comes with a $20,000 prize and recognizes basic research in any field of cognitive or behavioral science that uses rigorous formal and empirical methods to advance our understanding of issues relating to the risk of nuclear war.

 

Cornelia I. Bargmann, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and Torsten N. Wiesel Professor at Rockefeller University, is the recipient of the Richard Lounsbery Award.  Bargmann is being honored for her extraordinarily inventive and successful use of molecular and classical genetics to probe the individual nerve cell basis of behavior in C. elegans.  The Lounsbery Award -- consisting of a medal and a prize of $50,000 -- is awarded to French and American scientists in alternate years for extraordinary scientific achievement in biology and medicine.  The award is supported by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

 

Jonathan Beckwith, American Cancer Society Professor in the department of microbiology and molecular genetics at Harvard University, will receive the Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology.  Beckwith is being honored for fundamental contributions to gene regulation, protein targeting and secretion, and disulfide biochemistry, and also for the development of gene fusions as an experimental tool.  This award, established by the Foundation for Microbiology, recognizes excellence in the field of microbiology and comes with a prize of $5,000.

 

Stephen P. Bell, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the recipient of the NAS Award for Molecular Biology.  Bell is being honored for groundbreaking studies illuminating the mechanisms of DNA replication in eukaryotic cells. The award consists of a medal and a prize of $25,000, and is sponsored by Pfizer Inc.

 

Charles L. Bennett, professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, is the recipient of the Comstock Prize in Physics.  Bennett is being honored for his mapping of the cosmic microwave background and determining the universe's age, mass-energy content, geometry, expansion rate, and reionization epoch with unprecedented precision.  This prize of $20,000 is awarded for a recent innovative discovery or investigation in electricity, magnetism, or radiant energy.

 

Robert N. Clayton, Enrico Fermi Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago, will receive the J. Lawrence Smith Medal.  He is being honored for pioneering the study of oxygen isotopes to unravel the nature and origin of meteorites, showing that meteorites were assembled from components with distinct nuclear origins.  The medal and a prize of $25,000 are awarded for recent original and meritorious investigations of meteoric bodies.

 

Joseph Felsenstein, professor in the departments of genome sciences and biology at the University of Washington, is awarded the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science.  Felsenstein is being honored for revolutionizing population genetics, phylogenetic biology, and systematics by developing a sophisticated computational framework to deduce evolutionary relationships of genes and species from molecular data.  The Carty Award -- a medal and a prize of $25,000 awarded annually for noteworthy and distinguished accomplishment in any field of science -- is being presented in the area of evolution in 2009.

 

Alfred G. Fischer, professor emeritus in the department of geological sciences at the University of Southern California, is the recipient of the Mary Clark Thompson Medal.  He is being honored for leadership and research in the discovery of the cyclical and period nature of the sedimentary record in the geologic past and its connections with earth-system change, including biodiversity.  This medal, with a prize of $15,000, is awarded to recognize important contributions to geology and paleontology.

 

Joanna S. Fowler, senior chemist in the department of medicine at Brookhaven National Laboratory, is awarded the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences.  Fowler is being honored for exceptional accomplishments in the synthesis of positron-emitting chemical probes, and for their implementation in biomedical imaging and studies of in vivo biochemistry, which have had a major impact on human health worldwide.  The medal and prize of $15,000 are given for innovative research in the chemical sciences that contributes to the better understanding of the natural sciences and to the benefit of humanity, and is supported by the Merck Company Foundation.

 

Neil Gehrels is the recipient of the Henry Draper Medal.  Gehrels, chief of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, is being honored for his pioneering contributions to gamma ray astronomy.  His leadership of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Swift Mission has led to new insights into the extreme physics of active galactic nuclei and gamma ray bursts.  The Henry Draper Medal and a prize of $15,000 are awarded for an original investigation in astronomical physics.

 

Arthur R. Grossman of the Carnegie Institution for Science is the recipient of the Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal.  Grossman is being honored for pioneering creative and comprehensive research on algae and cyanobacteria, elucidating molecular mechanisms by which they adapt to changes in light color and to nutrient stress.  The Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal and prize of $20,000 are awarded for excellence in published research on marine or freshwater algae.

 

Roger W. Hendrix of the University of Pittsburgh is awarded the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing.  Hendrix's reviews, overviews, and minireviews have focused research in the areas of structure, assembly, and genomics of bacteriophages and include numerous original and provocative ideas.  The prize of $10,000 -- given in 2009 in the field of genetics -- acknowledges excellence in scientific reviewing within the past 10 years.  The award is supported by Annual Reviews, the Institute for Scientific Information, and The Scientist in honor of J. Murray Luck.

 

Ali Javey, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, is the recipient of the NAS Award for Initiatives in Research.  Javey is being recognized for seminal advances in carbon nanoelectronics, utilizing and synthesizing concepts from chemistry, physics, and engineering.  The prize of $15,000 is awarded to recognize innovative young scientists and to encourage research likely to lead toward new capabilities for human benefit.  The award -- established by AT&T Bell Laboratories in honor of William O. Baker and supported by Alcatel-Lucent -- is being presented in 2009 in the field of nanoscience.

 

Tirin Moore, assistant professor in the department of neurobiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, and Andrew J. Oxenham, associate professor in the department of psychology at the University of Minnesota, will each receive a Troland Research Award.  Moore is being honored for fundamental and insightful contributions to our understanding of the neuronal mechanisms that control directed visual attention.  Oxenham is being honored for profound and rigorous contributions to our understanding of the relationship between auditory perception and its underlying physiological mechanisms.  The Troland Research Awards are two research awards of $50,000 given annually to young investigators to recognize unusual achievement and to further their research within the broad spectrum of experimental psychology.

 

John D. Roberts, Institute Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, is awarded the NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society.  Roberts is being honored for seminal contributions in physical organic chemistry, in particular the introduction of NMR spectroscopy to the chemistry community.  The award, consisting of a prize of $20,000, was established by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.

 

Keith W. Tantlinger of Tantlinger Engineering is awarded the Gibbs Brothers Medal.  Tantlinger is being honored for his visionary and innovative design of the cellular container ship and supporting systems that transformed the world's shipping fleet and facilitated the rapid expansion of global trade.  The medal and prize of $20,000 are given for outstanding contributions in the field of naval architecture and marine engineering.

 

Also to be honored at the April 26 awards ceremony, which will take place during the Academy's 146th annual meeting, is Neal F. Lane, Malcolm Gillis University Professor and senior fellow of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, who was chosen to receive the Public Welfare Medal.  Lane, who served as assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy from 1998 to 2001, and as director of the National Science Foundation from 1993 to 1998, is honored for serving the scientific community in many executive and leadership roles and for his continuing efforts to advance and promote science and technology in the United States. The medal was established to recognize distinguished contributions in the application of science to the public welfare and has been presented since 1914.

 

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.  Since 1863, the National Academy of Sciences has served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.

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[ This news release is available at http://national-academies.org ]