UGA professor Jeffrey Bennetzen named to National Academy of Sciences

04/20/04

Jeffrey L. Bennetzen, the Norman and Doris Giles/Georgia Research Alliance professor of molecular genetics at the University of Georgia, has been elected to membership in the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Results of the election were made public this morning at the annual meeting of the National Academy in Washington, D.C.

Election to the National Academy represents the summit of career achievements for scientists and engineers in the United States, and only a small fraction of working scientists are elected to the group. Although anyone can suggest a name for membership, formal proposals for nomination must come from members of the Academy. New members and foreign associates are elected annually at the Academy's meeting in April.

Bennetzen is the first UGA faculty member named to the NAS since Susan Wessler was elected in 1998. Bennetzen joins a small group of scientists at UGA who are members of the NAS. The members at UGA are Wyatt Anderson, John Avise and Norman Giles (now retired), genetics; Norman Allinger, chemistry; Brent Berlin, anthropology; and Glenn Burton, agronomy. The late Eugene Odum of ecology and Lois Miller of the departments of entomology and genetics were also members.

"Jeff Bennetzen's election not only is a testament to the quality of the University of Georgia faculty but demonstrates once again the vitality of the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar program," said President Michael F. Adams. "I congratulate Jeff who has been at the university less than a year and appreciate the efforts of the GRA, which was of great assistance in his recruitment."

"It's a great pleasure to be elected to the Academy by my fellow scientists," said Bennetzen. "The students and other colleagues in my laboratory over the years deserve to share in this honor, as their inspiration and hard work were largely responsible for what we have accomplished."

Bennetzen is a pioneer in the comparative analysis of plant genomes, especially the contribution of transposable elements as generators of diversity. Among his most notable discoveries was the identification of mechanisms of genome growth in grasses.

"I am delighted that Dr. Bennetzen has been elected to the National Academy," said Wyatt Anderson, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "It is an honor to have him as a faculty member at the University of Georgia."

Bennetzen, 51, was a professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., for two decades. He received his bachelor's degree in biology from the University of California at San Diego in 1974 and his doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of Washington in 1980.

After earning his Ph.D., he served as a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. From 1981 to 1983 he was a research scientist at the International Plant Research Institute in San Carlos, Calif., before joining the department of biological sciences at Purdue.

The author of dozens of publications in peer-reviewed journals, Bennetzen has won numerous awards, including a Presidential Young Investigator Award, a Fulbright Award and the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Centenary Professorship at the University of Hyderabad in 2002.

He is co-editor of The Plant Cell and has served on the editorial boards of more than a dozen journals during his academic career. Bennetzen is a highly sought-after lecturer and teacher, and he delivers about 15 presentations a year at venues around the world.

Among his numerous research interests are: plant genome structure and evolution; the relationship between genome structure and evolution and gene function; the co-evolution of plant/microbe and plant/parasite interactions; and the breeding and genetic engineering of plants with improved resistances to stresses.

The National Academy of Sciences was created on March 3, 1863, and established service to the nation as its dominant purpose. The act also named 50 charter members. Subsequent executive orders have affirmed the importance of the National Research Council and further broadened its charter. The National Academy of Sciences established the National Academy of Engineering in 1964 and the Institute of Medicine in 1970. Much like the National Academy of Sciences, each of these organizations consists of members elected by peers in recognition of distinguished achievement in their respective fields. The National Academy of Sciences includes about 1,800 members, the National Academy of Engineering about 1,900 and the Institute of Medicine about 1,200. All three organizations also elect foreign associates.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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