Four Yale professors elected to National Academy of Sciences

Top row: Serap Aksoy, Hui Cao; Bottom row: Lieping Chen, and Debra Fischer

Four members of the Yale faculty were elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences this week in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. 

Serap Aksoy, Hui Cao, Lieping Chen, and Debra Fischer were among 120 new members elected to the academy, which is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a U.S. scientist or engineer. Thirty international members were also elected.

Aksoy, Cao, and Fischer also are among a record number of 59 women elected to the academy in a single year.

The historic number of women elected this year reflects the critical contributions that they are making in many fields of science, as well as a concerted effort by our academy to recognize those contributions and the essential value of increasing diversity in our ranks,” said Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences. “I am pleased to welcome all of our new members, and I look forward to engaging with them in the work of the National Academies.”

The new members from Yale are: 

Serap Aksoy, a professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases) at the Yale School of Public Health and acting chair of the Department of Epidemiology. Her research focuses on the biological and epidemiological basis of mammalian host-pathogen- insect vector interactions, particularly focusing on tsetse flies and parasitic African trypanosomes they vector. At Yale, her laboratory focuses on the development of novel methods to ultimately reduce tsetse populations in the field, or to reduce their ability to transmit disease. Her research in Uganda is on the epidemiology of Sleeping Sickness disease, with a focus on populations genetics of flies and parasites and their endosymbionts.

Hui Cao, the John C. Malone Professor of Applied Physics, whose research is focused on understanding and controlling quantum optical processes in nanostructures. In broad terms, her research is concerned with quantum effects and nano photonic devices, both for fundamental physical studies and for applications. This work involves nanofabrication, material characterization, optical measurement with high spatial, spectral, and temporal resolution, and numerical simulation. Her lab aims to better understand and control light propagation, scattering, absorption and lasing in complex photonic nanostructures for a wide range of applications. Last week she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Lieping Chen, the United Technologies Corporation Professor in Cancer Research, professor of immunobiology, dermatology and medicine (medical oncology), and co-leader of Cancer Immunology at Yale Cancer Center. He is internationally recognized for his leadership in the field of PD-L1 biology. His work has provided an important foundation for the subsequent development of immunotherapies to enable more effective immune responses against cancer. Chen also initiated and helped organize the first-in-man clinical trial of anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody for treating human cancer in 2006 and developed PD-L1 staining as a biomarker. His discoveries led directly to the development of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 antibody therapy against broad spectrum of human cancers, which has revolutionized cancer treatment.

Debra Fischer, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Astronomy, professor of statistics and data science and of geology and geophysics. Fischer, who studies exoplanets and instrumentation, has discovered hundreds of exoplanets, including the first known multiple planet system in 1999. She is working on new instruments to detect small rocky planets and this leads naturally to an interest in questions about the origin of life and the structure and composition of terrestrial worlds. From 2003 to 2008, she led an international consortium searching for planets around metal-rich stars; that project alone detected more than 50 new extrasolar planets. She also serves as dean of academic affairs in the Dean’s Office of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The newly elected academy members bring the total number of active members to 2,461 and the total number of international members to 511. 

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