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Cosgrove Elected to National Academy of Sciences

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Daniel Cosgrove, Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Biology, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He is one of 72 new members recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Election to membership in the academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer.

Cosgrove’s research concerns the mechanisms of plant cell growth. In the early 1980s he pioneered the use of the pressure microprobe to evaluate hydraulic constraints on cell enlargement. This work led to theoretical and experimental analyses of cell-wall stress relaxation as the key biophysical process controlling cell enlargement. In 1992, while searching for proteins with wall-loosening functions, his group was the first to isolate expansin — proteins that allow plant cell walls to grow while maintaining their rigidity. Since this discovery, Cosgrove and his colleagues have determined that plants have many expansin genes with diverse roles.

Recent work in Cosgrove’s lab is focused on the developmental, structural, and evolutionary aspects of the expansin-gene superfamily. By isolating and characterizing the genes that control expression of expansins in the cell, his lab is helping to explain how plants control their growth under a variety of conditions and how they adapt to environmental stresses.

Cosgrove's research accomplishments have received numerous awards and honors, including the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award and the Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Life Sciences in 1996, the Charles A. Shull Award for Outstanding Investigations in Plant Physiology in 1991, the Fulbright Senior Professor Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989, and the McKnight Foundation Award in 1986.

In 1993, Cosgrove was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the International Society for Plant Molecular Biology. He is a member of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), where he served as the society's president from 2000 to 2001 and as chairman of the board for the ASPB Educational Foundation in 2002 and 2003. He was a councillor of the American Society for Photobiology from 1986 to 1988 and served on the governing board of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology from 1993 to 1995.

He has been a reviewer for Science, Nature, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Plant Molecular Biology, Plant Physiology, Plant Cell, the Canadian Journal of Botany, Plant Science Letters, the Journal of Theoretical Biology, the Journal of Experimental Botany, the American Journal of Botany, and the International Journal of Plant Sciences, as well as several other professional journals.

Cosgrove joined the Penn State faculty as an assistant professor of biology in 1983. He was promoted to associate professor in 1987 and to professor in 1991, and was named Distinguished Professor in 2000. In 2001, he was named Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Biology. He has been a visiting professor in Germany at the University of Göttingen and at the Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology. He earned his doctoral degree in biological sciences at Stanford University in 1980 and his bachelor's degree in botany at the University of Massachusetts in 1974.

The National Academy of Sciences, with 1,976 active members and 360 foreign associates, is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

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