Three Professors Elected to Science Academy

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Three UC Berkeley professors were elected Tuesday as members of the National Academy of Sciences, a renowned society of scientists and engineers.

The new members from UC Berkeley are molecular and cell biology professors Michael Botchan and Jasper Rine, and physics professor George Smoot.

The academy elected 72 new members this year in more than 30 different disciplines, ranging from mathematics to developmental biology, bringing the academy's overall membership to 2,041, according to the academy's Web site.

Steve Martin, co-chair of the molecular and cell biology department, praised Botchan and Rine for their contributions to the field.

"Both of them are really contributing to the life of the department and biology on campus. We are very pleased at this long-overdue recognition," he said.

Botchan studies biochemistry, structural biology and genetics, explaining how gene expression is linked with DNA replication initiation. He is the department co-chair and is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.

Ian Mohr, a past post-doctoral fellow in Botchan's lab, praised the professor for his enthusiasm about science.

"He is continually thinking about experiments, and is completely open to critical dialogue between his students and fellows," Mohr said.

Botchan's colleagues said he works to challenge both his peers and himself through his research.

"He is a very logical thinker, always able to assemble complex data into a molecular model that could be tested experimentally. As a student in the lab, you wanted to be just as sharp," said Daniel Lim, a former undergraduate researcher for Botchan.

Heading the campus' computational biology program, Rine applies computer science techniques to explain biological phenomena, Martin said.

"The objective of the program is to apply computational techniques to biological problems like, for example, how information is included in DNA and how proteins get folded," he said.

In 2006 Smoot garnered a Nobel Prize for Physics, making him one of the academy's almost 200 Nobel laureates.

Smoot donated $500,000 of his Nobel Prize winnings to help start the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics, where academics of different disciplines can come together in an effort to answer cosmological questions.

Newly elected members will be inducted into the academy on April 25 of next year during the society's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Past academy members include Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright and Alexander Graham Bell.

Botchan, who has made long-term contributions to chromosome expression, called the membership to the academy a great privilege.

"It is an honor to serve in that capacity and helping society make the right choices," he said.


Contact Deepti Arora at [email protected]

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