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Six American Academy members receive nation’s top science award at White House ceremony


Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama today honored seven recipients of the National Medal of Science – six of whom are members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists.

American Academy President Leslie C. Berlowitz attended the White House ceremony where the medals were presented to:

Jacqueline K. Barton, California Institute of Technology
For discovery of a new property of the DNA helix, long-range electron transfer, and for showing that electron transfer depends upon stacking of the base pairs and DNA dynamics. Her experiments reveal a strategy for how DNA repair proteins locate DNA lesions and demonstrate a biological role for DNA-mediated charge transfer. Elected a Fellow of the Academy in 1991.

Ralph L. Brinster, University of Pennsylvania
For his fundamental contributions to the development and use of transgenic mice. His research has provided experimental foundations and inspiration for progress in germline genetic modification in a range of species, which has generated a revolution in biology, medicine, and agriculture. Elected a Fellow of the Academy in 1986.

Shu Chien, University of California, San Diego
For pioneering work in cardiovascular physiology and bioengineering, which has had tremendous impact in the fields of microcirculation, blood rheology and mechanotransduction in human health and disease. Elected a Fellow of the Academy in 2006.

Rudolf Jaenisch, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Massachusetts Institute of Technology
For improving our understanding of epigenetic regulation of gene expression: the biological mechanisms that affect how genetic information is variably expressed. His work has led to major advances in our understanding of mammalian cloning and embryonic stem cells. Elected a Fellow of the Academy in 1992.

Peter J. Stang, University of Utah
For his creative contributions to the development of organic supramolecular chemistry and for his outstanding and unique record of public service. Elected a Fellow of the Academy in 2002.

Srinivasa S.R. Varadhan, New York University
For his work in probability theory, especially his work on large deviations from expected random behavior, which has revolutionized this field of study during the second half of the twentieth century and become a cornerstone of both pure and applied probability. The mathematical insights he developed have been applied in diverse fields including quantum field theory, population dynamics, finance, econometrics, and traffic engineering. Elected a Fellow of the Academy in 1988.

“Each of these extraordinary scientists, engineers, and inventors is guided by a passion for innovation, a fearlessness even as they explore the very frontiers of human knowledge, and a desire to make the world a better place,” Obama said in announcing the recipients. “Their ingenuity inspires us all to reach higher and try harder, no matter how difficult the challenges we face.”

The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Nominees are selected by a committee of Presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in and contributions to chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, and the biological, behavioral/social, and physical sciences.

At the same ceremony, the President also honored five recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious learned societies, and an independent research center that draws from its members’ expertise to conduct studies in science and technology policy, global security, the humanities and culture, social policy, and education.

The research descriptions in this release are from the September 27, 2011 White House announcement.


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