UC Berkeley Professors Elected To National Science Academy

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Seven professors at UC Berkeley were elected to the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, joining the ranks of Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison.

The UC Berkeley faculty selected for the academy are Alexei Filippenko, Robert Fischer, Sarah Hake, Hiroshi Nikaido, Christos Papadimitriou, Mu-ming Poo and Kevan Shokat. A total of 17 professors in the UC system were elected this year.

The selected professors come from various scientific disciplines, including molecular and cell biology, electrical engineering, computer science and astronomy.

Maureen O'Leary, a spokesperson for the academy, said 72 new members are elected every year in recognition of their lifetime achievements in original scientific research. They are nominated by fellow members of the academy.

The academy was established in 1863 to report on the sciences and advise the government. It is a private, nonprofit honor society of scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, O'Leary said.

The academy currently has 2,150 members, 342 of whom are from the UC system.

Hake, an adjunct professor of plant and microbial biology, works to understand how plants are put together, focusing mainly on corn by mutating and identifying genes through positional cloning. She was elected for her work as director for the Plant Gene Expression Center.

She said her election to the academy has encouraged her to continue her research.

"Having your peers recognize you makes you feel it's not just your own excitement," Hake said. "It makes me inspired to work even harder."

Filippenko, a professor of astronomy, said his election to the academy came as a surprise.

"I am extremely delighted and honored by such recognition from a set of truly outstanding peers," he said. "I knew that my contributions to the field of astrophysics were substantial, but ... the competition is tough."

Filippenko teaches a popular astronomy class and researches black holes, supernovae, the expansion of the universe and dark energy. He was also part of a team in 1998 that helped discover that the universe's rate of expansion is getting faster rather than slower over time.

"He's just one of those dynamic professors who's able to make any topic, however abstract, sound amazing," said junior Chelsea Preble, who took Astronomy 10 with Filippenko. "You can tell that all he wants is for you to learn."

Campus spokesperson Robert Sanders said the members are chosen as a consulting body to the federal government and are considered the top scientists in the country.

"I think it's a great indication that the Berkeley faculty are really tops in the science field," Sanders said.

The newly elected members will be inducted into the academy next April at its 147th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.


Contact Christina Berke at [email protected]

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