Six From UNC Elected to National Academies

Four UNC professors and the chancellor have been elected 2007 fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and another professor has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition to Chancellor James Moeser, new arts and sciences fellows are:

  • James Jorgenson, W.R. Kenan Jr. Professor of chemistry;
  • Michael Taylor, W.R. Kenan Professor of mathematics;
  • Carlton Cuyler Hunt, professor emeritus of physiology; and
  • Terry Magnuson, Sarah Graham Kenan Professor, chair of genetics and director of the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences.

Jorgenson and Taylor are in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Hunt and Magnuson are in the School of Medicine.

The five are among the 203 new fellows and 24 new foreign honorary members elected to the academy. They join a list of new fellows that includes former Vice President Al Gore, former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and filmmaker Spike Lee.

Jeff Dangl, John N. Couch Professor of biology, microbiology and immunology and associate director of the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, is one of 72 new members and 18 foreign associates elected into the National Academy of Sciences.

UNC now has a total of 35 faculty members in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and 12 in the National Academy of Science.

Moeser, who has served as UNC’s chancellor since 2000 and is the University’s ninth chancellor, leads an effort to strengthen Carolina’s service to the people and communities of the state. He has championed a nationally recognized commitment to making a UNC education possible debt-free for deserving low-income students. Known as the Carolina Covenant, this initiative was a first for a major U.S. public university.

As the University’s ninth chancellor, Moeser has overseen an unprecedented physical transformation of the main campus, the most successful private fundraising campaign in University history, growth in faculty research, development of an academic plan and enhancements to undergraduate education. The FBI appointed Moeser to the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board in 2005. He also serves on the College Board’s National Commission on Writing and two Association of American University committees studying the cost of research and internationalization.

Jorgenson, an analytical chemist, received the American Chemical Society’s highest award for outstanding contributions to his field. Analytical chemistry focuses on measuring the chemical composition of material of all types with greater precision, sensitivity and speed. A former department chair, Jorgenson pioneered the chemical separation technique, capillary electrophoresis, in the 1980s. Capillary gel electrophoresis was the breakthrough technology that allowed the human genome to be sequenced years ahead of schedule. The former associate editor of Analytical Chemistry, Jorgenson is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Taylor, a UNC faculty member since 1987, specializes in partial differential equations, which are used to solve problems that involve unknown functions of several variables such as the propagation of sound or heat, electrodynamics, fluid flow or elasticity. He is a member of the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America and serves on the editorial boards of Communications in Partial Differential Equations and Mathematical Research Letters. Taylor’s recently published work includes Measure Theory and Integration and Tools for PDE, both for the American Mathematical Society, and an article on wave equations and diffraction for the Encyclopedia of Mathematical Physics.

Hunt joined the UNC faculty in 1995 as a visiting professor after a long career at several other institutions. He led in the discovery and description of a system of neurons controlling the sensitivity and activity of the muscle stretch receptor (the vertebrate muscle spindle), which was a first indication that the central nervous system can control the activity that it receives from peripheral sense organs. Hunt’s subsequent work on vibration reception by the Pacinian corpuscle and on the correlation between afferent fiber conduction velocity and afferent function are important landmarks in the development of insight into somatic sensory mechanisms. Hunt chaired the physiology departments at Yale University and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. After retiring from Washington University, he joined the physiology department at UNC as a visiting professor and actively continued his previous investigations of the workings of sense organs associated with somatic sensation.

Magnuson was recruited to Carolina in 2000 as founding chair of the department of genetics and director of the newly established Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. He also helped create the Cancer Genetics Program in the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. A founding member of the International Mammalian Genome Society, Magnuson served on the external advisory committee for the Mouse Genome Database at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. He served on the board of directors of the Society for Developmental Biology and is a director of the Genetics Society of America. He was appointed by the National Academy of Sciences to help establish guidelines for work with human embryonic stem cells. The work in the Magnuson lab focuses on the role of certain mammalian genes in unique epigenetic phenomena such as genomic imprinting and X-chromosome inactivation. The lab also studies the tumor suppressor role of mammalian gene complexes and has developed a novel genome-wide mutagenesis strategy.

Dangl, a UNC faculty member since 1995, specializes in plant genetics and cellular biology, plant disease resistance and controlling cell death. His work centers around the genetic study of plant-pathogen interactions — discovering how to make plants more resistant to disease — using a small plant with a white flower, Arabidopsis thaliana, commonly called thale cress or mouse-ear cress, as a model. His lab group was among the first to isolate a plant disease-resistance gene, to show that the pathogen molecule that activates this resistance gene was a virulence factor and to isolate a series of mutants which misregulated the hypersensitive cell death associated with plant disease resistance responses. This work has had important applications in understanding and creating new strategies for deploying disease resistant plants into agricultural settings. Dangl was elected to the German National Academy of Sciences (Die Leopoldina) in 2003 and a fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2004.

The Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots, has elected some of the most influential leaders from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill.

The National Academy of Sciences was established by Congress in 1863 as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology. Candidates for membership can only be formally nominated by academy members and are selected based on their original research.

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