In recognition of their outstanding research achievements, four School of Medicine faculty members have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Akiko Iwasaki, PhD; Haifan Lin, PhD; David G. Schatz, PhD; and Günter Paul Wagner, PhD, were selected for one of the world’s highest honors that can be bestowed on a scientist.
“This is a banner year for the School of Medicine,” says Robert J. Alpern, MD, dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine. “Election to the National Academy of Sciences is based on the quality of research and I think it speaks volumes about the caliber and impact of Yale science that four of our faculty members were elected this year.”
Iwasaki is Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Her research focuses on the mechanisms of immune defense against viruses at mucosal surfaces. Her laboratory has made seminal contributions to the understanding of how innate recognition of viral infections leads to the adaptive immune response, and how adaptive immunity mediates protection against subsequent viral challenges. Her work spans diseases caused by such viruses as herpes, influenza, rhinovirus, human papillomavirus, and Zika.
Lin is Eugene Higgins Professor of Cell Biology, professor of genetics and of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences, and founding director of the Yale Stem Cell Center. He has made key contributions to the demonstration of stem cell asymmetric division and the proof of the stem cell niche theory. He discovered the Argonaute/Piwi gene family and its essential function in stem cell self-renewal and germline development. He is also a discoverer of a novel class of non-coding small RNAs known as piRNAs, which was hailed by Science as one of the top breakthroughs in 2006. More recently, he demonstrated the crucial roles of the Piwi-piRNA pathway in epigenetic programming and in post-transcriptional regulation of mRNA and long non-coding RNAs.
Schatz is chair and Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, and an HHMI investigator alumnus. He has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms that assemble and diversify antigen receptor genes that encode antibodies and T cell receptors. He is best known for the discovery of the recombination activating genes RAG1 and RAG2, subsequent biochemical insights into RAG function and evolutionary origins, and the discovery of two distinct levels of regulation of somatic hypermutation.
Wagner is Alison Richard Professor and acting chair of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University, with a secondary appointment in the medical school’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences. Along with David Bercovici, PhD, and Igor B. Frenkel, PhD, from Yale University, the School of Medicine researchers are among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates. They join 64 other Yale faculty members—29 of whom are from the School of Medicine—who have been elected to the NAS.
In addition, Lin was elected in April to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which celebrates excellence in a wide range of disciplines. Joining him from the School of Medicine faculty is Gerald I. Shulman, MD, PhD, George R. Cowgill Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology), professor of cellular and molecular medicine, co-director of the Yale Diabetes Research Center, and HHMI investigator. Shulman pioneered the use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy to examine intracellular glucose and fat metabolism in humans for the first time. The approach has led to groundbreaking basic and clinical investigative studies on insulin resistance and a deeper understanding of type 2 diabetes.
Also entering the academy from Yale’s faculty is John J. Collins, the Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation.Other new inductees to the academy include former president Barack Obama and actor Tom Hanks.