Two Faculty Members Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Two members of the Carolina’s faculty have been elected fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in recognition of “preeminent contributions” in their fields.

New faculty fellows at UNC are Jack D. Griffith, Kenan distinguished professor of microbiology and immunology in UNC’s School of Medicine and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Joseph M. DeSimone, Kenan distinguished professor of chemistry and chemical engineering in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and at N.C. State University.

This brings the total number of UNC faculty members who have been elected to academy membership to 27.

Among the 196 fellows and 17 foreign honorary members named to the academy this year are U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, painter Jeff Koons, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Eric Cornell, journalist Tom Brokaw and Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska.

Griffith, a member of the medical faculty since 1977, received his bachelor’s degree from Occidental College in Los Angeles and his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology. He is the author of more than 150 professional publications. In 1971, he published the first electron microscope image of DNA bound to a known protein. This image and others published in that seminal paper with Nobel laureate Arthur Kornberg demonstrated electron microscopy’s potential for quantitative DNA analysis.

His melding of electron microscopy methods with biochemical tools has revealed important insights into genetic diseases. His 1999 discovery, with Rockefeller University colleague Titia de Lange, that the ends of chromosomes, telomeres, are tied in firmly knotted loops was heralded worldwide as important for gaining insights into cancer and aging.

His awards include the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Herbert A. Sober Leadership Award. The society recognized Griffith as the world’s most outstanding electron microscopist working with DNA.

DeSimone, a member of the college’s faculty since 1990, received his bachelor’s degree from Ursinus College and his doctorate from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

DeSimone, who holds more than 100 U.S. patents, has been widely recognized as an innovative polymer scientist and for discovering revolutionary ways to use carbon dioxide in place of conventional organic solvents for environmentally responsible manufacturing, cleaning and processing. Earlier this year, DeSimone was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest honors in the field.

In addition, he directs UNC’s new Institute for Advanced Materials, Nanoscience and Technology, an interdisciplinary endeavor drawing on UNC research strengths in polymer science, nanomaterials and nanobiosciences, and involving faculty from the curriculum in applied and materials sciences, and the departments of chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics and astronomy. DeSimone also directs the National Science Foundation’s Science Technology Center for Environmentally Responsible Solvents and Processes, a collaborative endeavor with five universities.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 to cultivate the arts and sciences.

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