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Nei Elected to National Academy of Sciences

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May 7, 1997 — Masatoshi Nei, Evan Pugh Professor of Biology and director of the Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Membership in the National Academy of Sciences is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer. Members of the National Academy assist the nation by addressing matters of importance in science and problems in which the insights of science are of central significance. Nei was selected in recognition of his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Nei is the founding director of the Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics, an interdisciplinary organization that fosters research on the evolution of genes and organisms. He is a world leader in evolutionary biology and has helped shape the way in which the field of molecular population genetics and evolution has developed. One of Nei's most valuable research contributions has been the development of a series of mathematical and statistical tools for the analysis and interpretation of genetic variation revealed by various molecular techniques. Nei has developed numerous statistical methods for studying the genetic divergence of DNA sequences and for using them to reconstruct phylogenic trees. These methods have now become essential tools for the study of molecular evolution and also are widely used in conservation biology. Nei's statistical method of genetic distance theory has been applied to the study of human population diversity, human evolution, and the evolution of immune-system genes.

Nei was honored with the Kihara Prize of the Genetics Society of Japan and was elected Fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1990. He was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1993 and has served on numerous editorial and review boards in the United States and Japan.

Nei joined the Penn State faculty in 1990 as distinguished professor of biology and director of the Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics. In 1994 he was named Evan Pugh Professor of Biology.

Prior to joining Penn State, Nei held the positions of professor of population genetics at the University of Texas at Houston from 1972 to 1990, acting director of the Center for Demographic and Population Genetics at the University of Texas at Houston from 1979 to 1980 and from 1986 to 1987, associate professor and professor at Brown University from 1969 to 1972, and head of the Population Genetics Laboratory at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan from 1965 to 1969.

Nei earned a bachelor's degree in genetics from the Miyazaki University in Japan in 1953, a master's degree in genetics from Kyoto University in Japan in 1955, and a doctoral degree in quantitative genetics from Kyoto University in Japan in 1959.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the total number of its current active members is 1,773. In addition to Nei, other members of the National Academy of Sciences at Penn State include Paul T. Baker, Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, elected in 1980; Stephen J. Benkovic, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry and Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Chemistry, elected in 1985; Nina V. Fedoroff, the Verne M. Willaman Professor of Life Sciences, director of the Life Sciences Consortium, and director of the Biotechnology Institute, elected in 1990; Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Statistics and director of the Center for Multivariate Analysis, elected in 1995; William T. Sanders, Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology, elected in 1985; Robert K. Selander, Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Biology, elected in 1982; and Philip S. Skell, Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, elected in 1977.

 

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