Six Yale Faculty Members Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Six Yale researchers were recently elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences for distinguished and continued achievements in original research.

The new members include three researchers from the Yale School of Medicine: Peter Cresswell, professor of immunobiology and dermatology and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Pietro V. DeCamilli, M.D., professor of cell biology; and Richard P. Lifton, M.D., professor of genetics, medicine and molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Other researchers from Yale include Gregory A. Margulis, professor of mathematics, William D. Nordhaus, the A. Whitney Griswold professor of economics and Efim I. Zelmanov, professor of mathematics.

Cresswell’s research centers on the molecular mechanisms of antigen processing, a phenomenon in which fragments of proteins from viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing organisms bind to the MHC molecules on human cells during an infection. These molecules are recognized by T Lymphocytes and are critical for making effective immune responses to infectious agents.

DeCamilli’s research focuses on the function of synapses, the specialized structures of the nervous system where signals are transmitted from one neuron to another. His studies have advanced knowledge of the mechanism of neurotransmitter secretion and also provided new insight into fundamental mechanisms through which all cells secrete substances and take up material from the extracellular media. He was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year.

Lifton heads the newly created Center for Genetics in Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. His research has pioneered the use of human genetics to identify the causes of hypertension and other cardiovascular and renal diseases. His work has identified more than 20 human disease genes. These have established the key role of altered salt handling by the kidney in hypertension, have provided new diagnostic tests for patients with high blood pressure and have identified new molecular targets for development of new drugs to treat hypertension. His ongoing work focuses on identifying genetic causes of end-stage renal disease and common forms of hypertension, including hypertension complicating pregnancy.

Margulis, a renowned mathematics professor, was recently appointed chair of the department. He has focused his research on flows on homogeneous spaces and number theory, where in particular he has proven the Oppenheim conjecture. His other areas of interest are dynamical systems and combinatorics (random graphs and explicit construction of expanders). In these and other areas, he has been credited with inventing important new mathematical techniques and for solving mathematical problems that have long perplexed other scholars in the field.

Nordhaus is a newly appointed Sterling Professor of Economics. He is an authority on economic growth, global warming and climate change, and how natural resources constrain economic growth. Nordhaus has also held top posts at Yale including provost, vice president for finance and administration and a member of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Jimmy Carter. He is also co-author of the classic textbook “Economics.”

Zelmanov won the Fields Medal, the highest medal awarded to a mathematician, in 1994. He has taught at universities in the former Soviet Union and served on the faculties of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Chicago before coming to Yale in 1995. His research focuses on the areas of linear groups and Lie algebras.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to furthering science and its use for the general welfare. The Academy 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 and technology.

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