Pioneering Rutgers professors Richard H. Ebright and Joachim Messing were elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences today.
The 213 new members of the academy, founded in 1780, include some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists and civic, business and philanthropic leaders. Members of the 2016 class include winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Wolf Prize, MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, the Fields Medal, the Grammy Award and the National Book Award.
“It is an honor to welcome this new class of exceptional women and men as part of our distinguished membership,” said Don Randel, who chairs the academy’s board of directors. “Their election affords us an invaluable opportunity to bring their expertise and knowledge to bear on some of the most significant challenges of our day. We look forward to engaging these new members in the work of the academy.”Ebright is Board of Governors professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers and laboratory director at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology. He directs a laboratory of about 25 postdoctoral associates, graduate students and technicians. One half of his lab studies the structure and mechanism of bacterial RNA polymerase, the enzyme that bacteria use to synthesize RNA. The other half discovers and develops new antibacterial drugs that function by inhibiting bacterial RNA polymerase. The work continues the program of antibacterial drug discovery started at Rutgers by 1952 Nobel laureate Selman Waksman.
Ebright has received the Searle Scholar Award, the Walter J. Johnson Prize, the Schering-Plough Award of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Waksman Award of the Theobold Smith Society and the MERIT Award of the National Institutes of Health. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He has more than 130 publications in peer-reviewed journals and more than 30 issued and pending patents.Messing is the fourth director of the Waksman Institute, a professor of molecular biology and the first holder of the Selman A. Waksman Chair in Molecular Genetics. Since arriving at Rutgers in 1985, Messing has been instrumental in launching many research programs in the life sciences. He spearheaded the development of technological tools for deciphering and engineering genomes from bacteria to man. In 2007 Messing was inducted as a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the oldest continuously existing scientific association in the world. He won the Wolf Prize in Agriculture in 2013, widely considered the Nobel Prize of agriculture and the Promega Biotechnology Award of the American Society of Microbiology in 2014. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Aside from his early work in molecular biology, Messing has focused on plant genetics. His laboratory has studied in particular genes that are expressed during the development of cereal seeds. He is well-known for genomic studies of grass genomes and his laboratory has contributed to the sequencing of rice, sorghum, maize, Brachypodium and Spirodela. One of his laboratory’s initiatives is investigating the potential of sweet sorghum and duckweed as alternative bioenergy sources.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers. It convenes academic, business and government leaders to respond to challenges facing the nation and world. Members contribute to academy publications and studies of science, engineering and technology policy; global security and international affairs; the humanities, arts and education; and American institutions and the public good.
The 236th class will be inducted at a ceremony on October 8, 2016, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The list of the 236th class of new members is listed at www.amacad.org/members.