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3 UCLA professors elected to National Academy of Sciences

Date: 05/01/2008
Contact: Meg Sullivan ()
Phone: 310-825-1046

Fields Medal-winning mathematician Terence Tao is one of three UCLA professors who were elected Tuesday to the National Academy of Sciences for their excellence in original scientific research.

Michael Grunstein, a professor of biological chemistry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and Thomas M. Liggett, a professor of mathematics, will join Tao in being formally inducted into the academy next April.

Membership in the academy is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States. There are currently more than 2,000 active academy members, 343 of them from the University of California system. Among the academy's most renowned members are Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright and Alexander Graham Bell. More than 180 living members have won the Nobel Prize.

The election of this year's UCLA fellows - who are among 72 new fellows from across the U.S. and 18 foreign associates from nine countries - brings the number of living UCLA academy members to 31.

Tao, who is from Australia, was elected as a foreign associate. In 2006, the mathematics professor, who holds UCLA's James and Carol Collins Chair, received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship and became the first UCLA faculty member to win a Fields Medal. Next month, he will be given the annual Alan T. Waterman Award, the highest honor bestowed by the National Science Foundation. Tao's research involves harmonic analysis, an advanced form of calculus that uses equations from physics, and a related field, nonlinear partial differential equations, as well as the entirely distinct fields of algebraic geometry, number theory and combinatorics - which involves counting.

Liggett's research focuses on probability theory and interacting particle systems. He is a former chair of the UCLA Department of Mathematics and has served as editor or associate editor of three scholarly journals on probability and stochastic theory. His past honors include a one-year Guggenheim Fellowship and a four-year Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship.

UCLA mathematicians previously elected to the National Academy of Sciences include Stanley Osher, Lennart Carleson, Robert Steinberg and Lloyd Shapley.

Grunstein is chair of the biological chemistry department at UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine. His research focuses on protein spools called histones, around which DNA wraps itself, enabling genetic material to be tightly packed into the tiny confines of a cell's nucleus. His laboratory's discovery that histones regulate gene activity led to a new field of study that investigates the role histones play in gene regulation and the development of diseases, including cancer. In 2001, Grunstein was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which honored him with the Massry Prize and the Gold Medal in 2003 for his research findings.

Grunstein joins UCLA biological chemistry professors Elizabeth Neufeld and David Eisenberg, who were previously elected as academy fellows.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furthering of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Established in 1863, the academy has served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called on to do so by any department of the government.

UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 300 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Four alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.