Obama Chooses Campus Professor for Committee

Professor of Atmospheric Science Inez Fung Will Help Select Nominees for National Science Medal


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UC Berkeley atmospheric sciences professor Inez Fung, known internationally for her climate change research, has been chosen by President Barack Obama for a position on the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science.

Appointed to the position on Sept. 17, Fung will become part of the 12-member body that selects nominees for the medal each year from a pool of about 150 to be ultimately decided by the president. Members of the committee are selected from a wide pool of sources across disciplines, according to the committee's program manager Mayra Montrose.

The medal is one of the highest honors bestowed upon scientists by their peers. UC Berkeley chemistry professor and 1997 medal recipient Darleane Hoffman said the award is "the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in the United States."

Fung could not be reached for comment as of press time because she was traveling in China.

Fung is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, an American Geophysical Union Biogeosciences fellow and a contributor to the United Nations Environment Programme's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for its work.

Her research includes studies of the climatic effects of aggressively planting trees and the use of satellite base remote sensing to explore how the biosphere absorbs carbon dioxide and methane gas.

"Her background is perfect for the committee," Montrose said. "She's from atmospheric sciences, and right now we have one other person on the committee (with this background) ... This area of research is very hot."

With more women now being recognized for their work in the scientific community, Hoffman said Fung's appointment to the committee will help maintain this trend.

"Until you got some women on the committee women weren't getting chosen to receive the National Medal of Science because it was almost exclusively going to men," she said.

Fung's colleagues said her sense of what is happening in the world of science will enable her to select strong nominees.

"Inez has incredibly good judgement about what 'on the cutting edge' in science is and who the members of the scientific community are who are helping to push it toward that level," said UC Berkeley chemistry professor Ronald Cohen.

Many UC Berkeley faculty have been appointed to positions under the Obama administration, including Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

"With a public university orientation, Cal faculty understand the importance of what a public university does and therefore what a government can do to follow," said Henry Brady, dean of UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. "I think our faculty take to Washington that notion."


Contact Noor Al-Samarrai at [email protected]

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