3 NU professors elected to National Academy of Sciences

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

Three Northwestern science professors were elected to the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, bringing the total number of NU faculty in the academy to 11.

Profs. Joseph Takahashi, Arthur Stinchcombe and Robert Lamb join nearly 2,000 U.S. and international scientists who advise the federal government in scientific matters.

“It’s not the Nobel Peace Prize, but it’s a very prestigious election,” said Marilyn McCoy, NU’s vice president for administration and planning. “These are the leading scientific representatives in the country as denoted by their colleagues.”

The professors learned about the election results after the annual academy conference held over the weekend in Washington. Several current academy members called their NU colleagues to congratulate them.

“I feel wonderful,” said Takahashi, a professor of neurobiology and physiology who is researching the genes involved in the internal 24-hour clocks of mice and humans. “It’s really an honor to be elected by such distinguished people.”

Stinchcombe, professor emeritus of sociology, said he was surprised to be selected because he does less quantitative work than other scientists in the organization.

“I thought I was ineligible,” Stinchcombe said. “More of those (scientists) were recognizable by (their) equations in work.”

Although Stinchcombe taught a course in methods last quarter, he will resign from his paid professorship in June to write a book about federalism. Stinchcombe said his election is not as big a deal to him because he is ending his teaching career.

“In some sense, the prestige is over,” Stinchcombe said. “I’m 70 years old and retired. There are no more promotions, so to speak, and no more university privileges that come with prestige. (Still) it’s great to know that my colleagues think highly of my work.”

Stinchcombe said he has not decided if he will attend the induction ceremony, which takes place next year.

“It isn’t like being crowned the queen of England,” he said.

Lamb, professor of microbiology and immunology, said he is uncertain about how he will advise the federal government in the future. Previously, Lamb sat on an academy committee on bioterrorism.

Both Takahashi and Lamb are Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers at NU.

The academy was founded by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The academy, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council make up the National Academies.

“Having three people selected helps NU’s prestige,” said chemistry Prof. Tobin Marks, who was elected to the academy in 1993. “It shows people we really are as good as we know we are. I know there will be more people elected in years to come.”

Chemistry Prof. Mark Ratner, who was elected to the academy last year, said NU has fared well in academy selections over the past couple of years. He attributed the increase in research grants to recent university administrators who have helped make NU a “serious player.”

“Northwestern is much different than it used to be,” Ratner said. “It’s a much more serious institution than it was 25 years ago.”