President Obama has named nine scientific researchers as recipients of the National Medal of Science, the highest honor bestowed upon scientists, engineers, and inventors by the U.S. government.
National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins and J. Craig Venter are among the recipients of the 2009 National Medal of Science. Collins and Venter are known for their work mapping the human genome. In 2001, Celera Genomics (led by Venter), and the National Human Genome Research Institute (led by Collins) competed to complete the Human Genome Project. Venter is currently chairman and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute.
On Oct. 7, the award will be presented to Collins, Venter, and seven others at the White House. Two other award winners are life-scientists JoAnne Strubbe of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Elaine Fuchs of Rockefeller University.
Biologist and chemist JoAnne Stubbe is being honored for her experiments establishing the mechanisms of ribonucleotide reductases, polyester synthases, and natural product DNA cleavers. The award citation called her work “compelling demonstrations of the power of chemical investigations to solve problems in biology.”
"It's a little overwhelming, and a great honour," said Stubbe, in a press release from MIT, where she is a professor of chemistry and biology. "For the first time, everybody in my family is excited about what I do," she joked.
Fuchs is an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at the Rockefeller University. She is being awarded the National Medal of Science for her work on the biology of mammalian skin and skin diseases. Her recent work with stem cells is providing insight on how defective stem cells can cause cancers. “While there is much promise for stem cells in revolutionizing medicine, we must first learn more about stem cells before we can know whether this might be possible,” said Fuchs in a press release from HHMI.
The National Medal of Science was created in 1959, and is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The annual award recognizes scientists who have made significant contributions to science and engineering.
"These scientists, engineers and inventors are national icons, embodying the very best of American ingenuity and inspiring a new generation of thinkers and innovators," said President Obama in a White House press release. "Their extraordinary achievements strengthen our nation every day—not just intellectually and technologically but also economically, by helping create new industries and opportunities that others before them could never have imagined."
The NSF is accepting nominations for the 2010 National Medal of Science. Nomination forms are available online, and must be submitted by Nov. 5, 2009.