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European group elects cell biologist as foreign member

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2006 - Spring


Ira Mellman, Ph.D. ’78, chair and Sterling Professor of Cell Biology, is one of three American scientists elected as foreign members of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) at its annual meeting in Warsaw, Poland, last October. EMBO membership is a lifelong honor, and scientists are elected on the basis of proven excellence in research. Among its members are some of Europe’s leading researchers, including 38 Nobel laureates. EMBO was established in 1964 to create a central molecular biology laboratory and a network that would enhance interactions among European laboratories. Currently there are more than 1,200 EMBO members in Europe, and only 100 investigators out-side of Europe have been named as associate members.

“It is a real honor to be one of the very few U.S. scientists to be recognized by our most distinguished European colleagues by election to EMBO membership,” said Mellman. “Science is truly an international endeavor, and I certainly plan to use this connection to further scientific exchange at all levels.”

Mellman uses a combination of biochemical, genetic and imaging methods to understand complex functions of cell biology. His work has revealed basic biological mechanisms that regulate immune responses, particularly how dendritic cells initiate and control all antigen-specific immune responses. Another area of his research involves cell polarity and asymmetry and the molecular mechanisms that sort, target and transport cell membrane components to appropriate membrane locations in different types of cells.

Mellman joined the Yale faculty in 1981 after completing his undergraduate training at Oberlin College, receiving his doctorate in human genetics from Yale in 1978 and beginning his academic career at Rockefeller University. From 1997 to 2001 he served as founding director of the Combined Graduate Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Mellman, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Immunobiology, is an affiliate member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. He was named scientific director of the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2004. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and he has received a Swebilius Award, the President’s Research Development Award (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) and the Yale Science and Engineering Society Medal.

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