National Academy of Sciences elects 6 campus faculty

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Six UC Berkeley faculty members were elected to the National Academy of Sciences, which was founded in 1863.

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The National Academy of Sciences, or NAS, selected six UC Berkeley faculty to join as members.

These faculty — David Drubin, Nicole King, Chung-Pei Ma, Joel Moore, Rasmus Nielsen and Joseph Orenstein — will join 145 other campus faculty members who have previously been elected to NAS, according to a  campus press release.

Nielsen, campus professor of computational biology, said it was an honor to have been elected.

“If you look at all the people that are members of the academy, it’s a great collection of fantastic researchers,” Nielsen said. “To be part of that group is both very humbling and something that of course is a great honor.”

The role of the NAS, according to its website, is to advise the nation’s leaders in an objective manner on matters of science and mathematics.

A campus physics professor, Orenstein acknowledges that the role of the NAS is “two-fold,” and includes not only advising, but also recognition.

“One purpose is just to recognize achievement in science research and to honor people that have made contributions,” Orenstein said. “And the other half is through the National Research Council — the Academy organizes a lot of studies and committees that help guide science policy.”

The NAS was founded in 1863 by Congress and was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln, according to their website. According to campus physics professor Moore, the academy is a mostly bipartisan agency.

“I’m pretty excited about the service role,” Moore said. “Having a group of people who are chosen, not for political affiliation or something, but just because they are reasonably accomplished scientists — I think that’s maybe a good way to get expertise on things.”

The NAS promotes member research on sectors of public policy such as medicine and technology, according to their website. Many of the elected faculty say they look forward to participating in these studies and conversations.

While he has no specific plan of action to pursue within the NAS yet, Nielsen, whose research focuses on evolution and genomic data, also added that he hopes to see more representation and diversity within the NAS, noting that the members should “reflect the society that we live in.”

For Orenstein, this election provided not only an opportunity for him because he would be serving on NAS committees, but also an opportunity for him to reflect on his career and colleagues.

“I got phone calls and emails from friends … that I hung out with many years ago that I hadn’t heard from since,” Orenstein said. “The most wonderful part was hearing from all those people and reliving some of the memories we had.”

The other recognized faculty members are David Drubin, who is the Ernette Comby Chair in microbiology in the department of molecular and cell biology, Nicole King, who is a professor of molecular and cell biology and Chung-Pei Ma, who is a physical sciences professor in the departments of astronomy and physics.

Contact Molly Cochran at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @mollyacochran .