Public Release:  2 UCLA faculty elected to National Academy of Sciences

University of California - Los Angeles

Two professors from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA have been elected by their peers to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honors presented to scientists in the U.S.; its membership includes Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright and Alexander Graham Bell.

The UCLA professors are among 84 new members of the academy from across the U.S. and 21 foreign associates from 14 countries. Their election brings the number of current UCLA academy members to 43. The new UCLA members are:

Dr. Edward De Robertis, Norman Sprague Professor of Biological Chemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. De Robertis is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Latin American Academy of Sciences, as well as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His research focuses on the way that cells communicate with each other.

De Robertis' isolation of genes that control head-to-tail and back-to-belly patterning in early frog and mouse embryos led to the discovery that all animals' development is controlled by an ancient genetic toolkit. In particular, he carried out the molecular dissection of the process of embryonic induction, in which groups of cells called "organizers" control tissue differentiation. This work is aimed at understanding cell signaling, a fundamental problem in stem cell biology and cancer. De Robertis has been a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCLA since 1985.

Ernest Wright, distinguished professor of physiology and Sherman M. Mellinkoff Distinguished Professor in Medicine. Wright was named a fellow of the British Royal Society in 2005, an honor considered one of the highest accolades a scientist can achieve next to the Nobel Prize, and in 2006 he was elected to the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. His research focuses on the structure, function and genetics of membrane transport proteins, which act as the gatekeepers for the body by carrying essential molecules in and out of cells.

Research in Wright's laboratory on the cloning and function of glucose transporters has already led to the development of new drugs to control diabetes.

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The National Academy of Sciences rolls currently list 2,179 active academy members, and 437 foreign associates.

The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology. The academy is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the advancement of science and its use for the general welfare.

The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has more than 2,000 full-time faculty members, almost 1,300 residents, more than 750 medical students, and almost 400 Ph.D. candidates, and ranks in the top tier of research institutions funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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