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National Academy of Sciences Honors Six HHMI Researchers


Five HHMI investigators and an HHMI professor receive 2007 awards for scientific achievement from the National Academy of Sciences.

Five Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigators and an HHMI professor are among 18 scientists who will be honored by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for outstanding scientific achievements. The awards will be presented at the Academy's 144th annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in April.

The Richard Lounsbery Award—a medal and prize of $50,000 awarded in alternate years to American and French scientists for extraordinary achievement in biology and medicine—will be awarded to Xiaodong Wang, an HHMI investigator at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, for what the NAS calls "pioneering biochemical studies on apoptosis, which have elucidated a molecular pathway leading into and out of the mitochondrion and to the nucleus." The award was established in 1979 by Vera Lounsbery in memory of her husband.

The NAS Award in Molecular Biology—a medal and prize of $25,000 awarded annually for a recent notable discovery in molecular biology by a young scientist—will be presented to Gregory J. Hannon, an HHMI investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories. The award is for "elucidation of the enzymatic engine for RNA interference." Supported by Pfizer, Inc., the award has been presented since 1962.

The Troland Research Awards—awards of $50,000 given annually to each of two scientists to recognize unusual achievements and to further their research within the broad spectrum of experimental psychology—will be shared by Randy L. Buckner, an HHMI investigator at Harvard University, and Pawan Sinha, an associate professor of computational neuroscience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Buckner was selected "for substantive contributions to understanding of the neural mechanisms of memory formation and retrieval." Sinha was named "for elucidating how humans learn to recognize visual objects, and for developing computational models of the mechanisms that mediate this learning." The Troland Research Awards were established in 1984 by a bequest from Leonard T. Troland.

The Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal—a medal and prize of $25,000 awarded every three years for important contributions to the medical sciences—will be awarded to Jeffrey M. Friedman, an HHMI investigator at Rockefeller University, "for the discovery of leptin and its role in the regulation of appetite, energy expenditure, and the molecular mechanisms underlying obesity." The award was established in 1952 by Michael J. Kovalenko in memory of his wife.

The Alexander Hollaender Award in Biophysics—a prize of $20,000 awarded every three years for outstanding contributions in the field of biophysics—will be presented to Barry H. Honig, an HHMI investigator at Columbia University, "for pioneering theoretical and computational studies of electrostatic interactions in biological macromolecules and of the energetics of protein folding." The award was established in 1998 by Henrietta W. Hollaender in honor of her husband.

The Selman A.Waksman Award in Microbiology—a prize of $5,000 given biennially to recognize excellence in the field of microbiology—will be awarded to Richard Losick, an HHMI professor at Harvard University, for "discovering alternative bacterial sigma factors and his fundamental contributions to understanding the mechanism of bacterial sporulation." The award was established by a gift from the Foundation for Microbiology and has been presented since 1968. HHMI professors are leading research scientists who are awarded competitive grants by the Institute to do something innovative in undergraduate science education.