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Academy Members Secure Association and Fellowship Appointments

Over the past few months, a number of Academy members have achieved new opportunities for professional growth.

Published January 31, 2013

Roland Staal, principal scientist at Lundbeck, as joined the Academy's Steering Committee of the Biochemical Pharmacology Discussion Group, one of the longest-standing Discussion Groups (founded in 1964). "I have been attending Academy events since graduate school and became more involved in the last two years with respect to organizing symposia because the symposia were always so good (speakers, attendees, and, of course, the location)," says Staal.

                "Roland Staal helped me organize scientific symposia on the biology of apolipoprotein E (which plays a major role in a pathway that may lead to novel treatment options for Alzheimer's), and neuroinflammation and the role of the innate immune system in central nervous system disorders.  He was able to help connect key researchers in a wide range of therapeutic areas and bring them into the Academy community," said Jennifer Henry, director of Life Sciences at the Academy.


Daniel Duzdevich, a second-year PhD candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University and a freelance Science Writing Associate at the Academy, won a 2012 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.

                Working in Professor Eric Greene's laboratory, Duzdevich is aiming to devise a way to visualize DNA replication and repair at the molecular level. In his first year as a PhD candidate he won the James Howard McGregor Award, given to "the graduate student [who] shows unusual promise as a teacher of zoology."

                Duzdevich also has a deep interest in making biology accessible to a general audience. His "translation" of Charles Darwin's Victorian prose in the Origin of Species into "clear modern English" will be published by Indiana University Press in early 2013. He plans a career in basic research as well as in popular science writing about biology.


Valentino Tosatti, the Joseph Fels Ritt Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Columbia University and a past winner of the Academy's Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, has been named a research fellow by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which awards two-year, $50,000 grants to support the work of exceptional young researchers early in their careers.


Stuart Firestein, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, and William Zajc, chair of the Department of Physics, both at Columbia University, have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Firestein and Zajc, both judges for the New York Academy of Sciences Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, are among 539 inductees selected from across the nation.

                Firestein was selected for his "distinguished contributions to the field of neuroscience," according to the AAAS citation. Specifically, he was recognized for his pioneering work on the mammalian olfactory system. Firestein's lab focuses on understanding how mammals, equipped with what he describes as "possibly the best chemical detector on the planet," are able to sense and discriminate a vast number of molecules known to us as odors.

                Dedicated to promoting the accessibility of science to a public audience, Firestein also serves as an advisor for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's program for the Public Understanding of Science. Recently he was awarded the 2011 Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award for excellence in scholarship and teaching. He also wrote a book on the workings of science for a general audience called Ignorance, published by Oxford University Press in the spring of 2012.

                Zajc was selected for his work in the field of relativistic heavy ion physics, in which high-energy nuclear collisions are used to study the state of matter in the early universe. In particular, Zajc was recognized for his leadership of the PHENIX experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. In 2005, the experiment made the surprising discovery that the extraordinarily hot and dense matter that filled the universe a few millionths of a second after the big bang was not a gaseous plasma but instead a "perfect liquid" that flowed 100 times more easily than water.

                Zajc is a member of the Policy and Planning Committee of the Arts & Sciences. He also serves on the Science and Technology Committee for Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Science Council of Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory, and on the National Academies "Decadal Survey" of nuclear physics.