Five Columbia Faculty Join the Ranks of the National Academy of Sciences

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has elected five Columbia University researchers in the fields of medicine, physics and biological sciences into its membership, one of the highest honors that can be accorded to a scientist in the United States.

Dmitri Basov, Angela M. Christiano, Andrew Millis  Molly Przeworski and Lorraine S. Symington join 146 scientists, scholars and engineers welcomed into the academy this year. The new members will be inducted into the NAS at its 158th annual meeting in 2021.

Dimitri Basov is a professor of physics whose research focus is on electronic phenomena in quantum materials. His lab uses a variety of nano-optical techniques and has developed new methods for applying strong radiation fields to materials and measuring their effects—all on the smallest length scales. Basov’s current research focus is on van der Waals materials (named after Dutch scientist Johannes Diderik van der Waals), such as graphene and transition metal dicalcogenide, 2-D compounds as thin as a single atomic layer that exhibit remarkable electronic properties. These materials could provide new means to convert waste heat into usable energy, build accurate sensors and transmit power over long distances or as the basis for new kinds of quantum and classical computers.

Angela M. Christiano is the Richard and Mildred Rhodebeck Professor of Dermatology and professor of genetics and development at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Christiano’s research interests are in understanding the genetic and molecular mechanisms that underlie inherited skin and hair disorders in humans. Her longstanding research program has focused on determining the genetic and immunologic mechanisms underlying alopecia areata, an autoimmune form of hair loss. Her lab has identified potential therapeutic targets for this disorder that will likely represent the first class of FDA-approved drugs for alopecia areata. Most recently her lab began applying the lessons learned from autoimmune mechanisms in alopecia areata toward improving anti-tumor immune responses in melanoma.

Andrew Millis is a professor of physics at Columbia and co-director of the Center for Computational Quantum Physics at the Flatiron Institute. Millis’ research interests are in condensed matter physics, a field focusing on atomic and molecular interactions in solids and liquids. His work enables calculations that predict electronic properties of materials, including electrical conductivity and the tendency to magnetism. Millis has made landmark discoveries in properties of superconducting materials and essential contributions to the understanding of high transition-temperature superconductivity in copper-oxide materials.

Molly Przeworski is professor of systems biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and professor of biological sciences on the Morningside campus. Przeworski’s work aims to understand how natural selection has shaped patterns of genetic variation and to identify the causes and consequences of variation in recombination and mutation rates in humans and other organisms. Her research has contributed to a better understanding of how natural selection operates in humans and in other species. It has further revealed recombination rates to be highly variable among individuals and to explain how and why recombination rates evolve in apes.

Lorraine S. Symington is the Harold S. Ginsberg Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Symington, also a member of Columbia’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, studies how the cell repairs harmful DNA damage. In recent years, the Symington lab has developed elegant genetic assays, coupled with physical analysis of recombination intermediates, to understand homologous recombination, and to further characterize how members of the RAD52 group of genes are involved in the repair of double-strand breaks. She uses budding yeast as a model system, with the long-term goal of identifying the genes that control homologous recombination in people.

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