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Rao and Fedoroff Among Notable Faces of Science

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Calyampudi R. Rao, Emeritus Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Statistics and director of the Center for Multivariate Analysis, and Nina Fedoroff, Evan Pugh Professor of Life Sciences and the Verne M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences, are featured among the greatest men and women of the scientific community today in the book Faces of Science: Portraits, published recently by W.W. Norton & Company of New York. The book features the work of renowned photographer Mariana Cook, who turned her camera on the people behind some of the great discoveries of our time. Each portrait is accompanied by a short autobiographical essay explaining how the scientist became interested in his or her chosen field, illuminating the individual character of the scientists and making them more accessible and less formidable than they may have seemed in the past.

Calyampudi R. Rao

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Calyampudi R. Rao is one of the world's top five statisticians and is recognized internationally as a pioneer who laid the foundation of modern statistics, with multifaceted distinctions as a mathematician, researcher, scientist, and teacher. His contributions to mathematics and to the theory and application of statistics during the last six decades have become part of graduate and postgraduate courses in statistics, econometrics, electrical engineering, and many other disciplines at universities throughout the world.

Rao’s research in multivariate analysis, for example, is useful in economic planning, weather prediction, medical diagnosis, tracking the movements of spy planes, and monitoring the course of spacecraft. Technical terms bearing his name appear in all standard textbooks on statistics, including such terms as the Cramer-Rao Inequality, Rao-Blackwellization, Fisher-Rao Theorem, Rao Distance, and Rao’s Score test.

In 2004, the Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, established a new institute named in Rao’s honor. The C.R. Rao Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science was established to promote research and advanced study, and will host international workshops, conferences, and symposia to highlight advances in these fields.

Among his numerous previous awards, Rao was honored in 2003 with the first Mahalanobis International Award in Statistics from the International Statistical Institute and the Srinivasa Ramanujan Medal by the Indian National Science Academy. In 2002, he was honored by President George W. Bush with the National Medal of Science, the highest award given to an American scientist for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research.

Rao has been honored by the government of India with the Padma Vibhushan award in 2001 — the country's second-highest civilian honor — for outstanding contributions to science, engineering, and statistics; with being selected in 2000 as the namesake for a National Award to be presented to India's outstanding young statisticians; and with receiving from the prime minister of India the highest honor bestowed by the University of Visva-Bharati, the 2002 Desikottama award, in recognition of his "enormous contributions in the field of statistics and its applications." He also has received twenty-nine honorary doctoral degrees from universities in sixteen countries.

Rao is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Science in the United States, a Fellow of the Royal Society in the United Kingdom, and a member of the Indian National Science Academy, the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, and the Third World Academy of Sciences. He earned his Ph.D. and Sc.D. degrees in 1948 at Cambridge University in England. He came to the United States 1978 after serving as director of the Indian Statistical Institute, where he had held various research and administrative positions since 1944. In 1982 he established the Center for Multivariate Analysis at the University of Pittsburgh, where he continues as adjunct professor. Rao joined the Penn State faculty in 1988.

Nina V. Fedoroff

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Nina V. Fedoroff is one of the nation's most prominent researchers in the life sciences and biotechnology. Throughout her career, she has distinguished herself as a pioneer in the application of molecular techniques to plants. In earlier work, her laboratory cloned and analyzed the molecular biology of mobile genetic elements, also known as transposons, in the maize plant. Among her accomplishments, she isolated and characterized the first complete maize transposable genetic element — research that provided the molecular basis for understanding unusual phenomena first described in maize by Nobel Laureate Barbara McClintock in the 1940s. Fedoroff later identified and studied the molecular mechanism of regulation of the maize suppressor-mutator element and also identified a unique regulatory protein encoded by this element. Today, her laboratory studies genes that contribute to a plant's ability to fight off disease, environmental pollutants, and other environmental stresses. The overall goal of her research is to identify important stress-response genes that geneticists can use to strengthen the ability of plants to withstand environmental assaults.

Fedoroff has received numerous honors and awards, including the University of Chicago's Howard Taylor Ricketts Award in 1990; the New York Academy of Sciences Outstanding Contemporary Women Scientist Award in 1992; the Sigma Xi McGovern Science and Society Medal in 1997; and the 2003 George Arents Pioneer Medal from Syracuse University for outstanding accomplishments and excellence in scientific research.

In 2001, President Clinton appointed Fedoroff to the National Science Board, a 24-person board that oversees the activities of the National Science Foundation. Members are selected on the basis of their eminence in science, engineering, education, or research management. They are appointed for a six-year term by the president and confirmed by the United States Senate.

In 2002, Fedoroff was named an Evan Pugh Professor, the highest distinction that Penn State bestows upon a faculty member. In July 2002, she stepped down from positions as founding director of the Penn State Life Sciences Consortium and as director of the Penn State Biotechnology Institute in order to devote more of her energies to her research and writing. In 2004, the Joseph Henry Press of the National Academy of Sciences published Fedoroff’s book, titled Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist’s View of Genetically Modified Foods, written with co-author Nancy Brown, formerly of Penn State. In 2003, she was appointed to the external faculty of the Santa Fe Institute and she also serves as a member of its Science Steering Committee.

Fedoroff is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences, and the Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi honorary societies. She chairs the Publications Committee of the Council of the National Academy of Sciences and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Sigma-Aldrich Corporation. She has served as a member of the International Scientific Advisory Board of the Englehardt Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow, as well as the boards of directors of the Genetics Society of America, BIOSIS, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Sigma-Aldrich Chemical Company. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry at Syracuse University in 1966 and her doctoral degree in molecular biology at the Rockefeller University in 1972.

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