UW Today

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May 2, 2000

Two UW scientists elected to National Academy of Sciences

Two UW faculty members, Dr. Stanley Fields and Dr. Sen-itiroh Hakomori, are among 60 new members elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Results were announced Tuesday, May 2.

Their election brings the number of UW faculty members in the NAS to 41. New NAS members are elected by current members in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Election to membership is considered one of the highest honors for a U.S. scientist or engineer. Those elected this week bring the total number of active members to 1,843. There is also a category of senior membership.

The NAS is an organization of scientists and engineers “dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare.” The Academy 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 on request, in any matter of science or technology.

Dr. Stanley Fields is a professor of genetics and medicine (medical genetics) and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He also has an adjunct appointment in microbiology. Fields joined the UW faculty in 1995. Before that, he was a professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

He is known as a creative scientist whose contributions to molecular genetics have had a large impact on the entire field, and is perhaps best known for developing the most common technique for determining if two proteins will interact, called the two-hybrid method. The technique has been described as revolutionizing work in protein interactions. He is also known for his discovery that the tumor suppressor protein, p53, activates some genes. He proposed that it controls the expression of genes that limit growth, an idea that has led to productive research in several laboratories.

Fields and colleagues recently developed a protein linkage map identifying nearly 1,000 protein-protein interactions based on using the two-hybrid system with many proteins revealed by sequencing of the yeast genome. This map was published as the cover story in the Feb. 10 issue of Nature.

Fields earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Cambridge University and the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in England.

Dr. Sen-itiroh Hakomori is a professor of pathobiology in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine and of microbiology in the School of Medicine, as well as an adjunct professor of chemistry. He is also head of the Biomembrane Division of the Pacific Northwest Research Institute.

Hakomori is well known for his pioneering research on the role of glycosphingolipids (GSLs) in cancer progression, infectious processes and inflammatory triggers. GSLs, ubiquitous surface membrane components of animal and plant cells, modulate many molecular mechanisms including cell adhesion, cell recognition and transmembrane signaling.

Understanding of the roles of GSLs has promoted new strategies for disease prevention and control. For his work in this area, Hakomori received the Philip Levine Immunohematology Award in 1984, the Asahi Prize for Arts and Sciences (a prestigious prize in Japan) in 1991, and the Karl Meyer Award of the Glycobiology Society in 1995.

He has been with the University of Washington since 1968. He received his earlier education, including his M.D., from Tohoku University Medical College in his native Sendai, Japan. He became a U.S. citizen in 1978.
More information about the NAS can be found at http://national-academies.org/