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DOE Congratulates Under Secretary, National Lab Director and Other National Lab Scientists for Receiving Top Scientific Honor

April 29, 2010 - 12:00am

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Washington, DC - U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Steven E. Koonin, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Director Persis Drell, and other National Lab affiliated scientists and engineers are among the 72 new members elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).  NAS is a private, nonprofit, honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to furthering science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.  Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States.  The newly announced members will be inducted into the Academy next April during its 148th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

DOE National Lab scientists and engineers elected to NAS include Steven Kivelson, Mina Bisell, Alexis Bell, and Seamus Davis.  Kivelson is a member of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, or SIMES, a joint institute of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford, and is a Professor of Physics at Stanford.  Mina Bissell is a Distinguished Scientist with DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and an award-winning cell and cancer biologist, and Alexis Bell is a chemical engineer with joint appointments at Berkeley Lab and the University of California Berkeley, and is a leading authority on catalysis.  Seamus Davis holds a joint appointment in Condensed Matter Physics and Material Sciences at Brookhaven National Laboratory. 

"I congratulate these individuals on the extrodinary honor of being inducted to the National Academy of Sciences," said Secretary Chu. "Many of the challenges we face are scientific at their core.  Having leaders within DOE inducted to such a prestigious Academy will ensure that science will continue to be at the forefront in helping to solve the urgent challenges of our time."

Under Secretary Steven E. Koonin is honored for his outstanding contributions to the field of theoretical physics. Under Secretary Koonin made seminal contributions to the understanding of nuclear decay and nuclear reaction theory. His most-cited work concerns statistical decay of heavy nuclei. Under Secretary Koonin invented quantum Monte-Carlo techniques that have been broadly applied in nuclear physics, computational chemistry, and condensed matter physics. He was among the first scientists to investigate nuclear fusion and fission using time-dependent computational methods, and his 1985 computational science text influenced generations of scientists. Under Secretary Koonin developed a theoretical framework for analysis of solar neutrinos that related measurement to astrophysical processes. Outside of nuclear physics, Under Secretary Koonin initiated the Earthshine program to study the earth's reflectivity over decadal timescales, research that has important implications for climate science. In addition to basic science, Under Secretary Koonin's current interests are directed toward finding solutions to the energy challenges facing the world today. Under Secretary Koonin received a doctorate in Theoretical Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1975, served on the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) faculty from 1975-1995, and became the seventh provost of Caltech from 1995 - 2004.

SLAC Director Persis Drell is commended for her broad-ranging work in experimental physics.  A Professor at Stanford University, she has contributed her insights and organizational skills over her career to important experiments in each area of science that she touched. She graduated from Wellesley College and, as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley (PhD, 1983), she began her scientific career in atomic physics experiments to examine whether the predicted parity symmetry breaking effects of neutral weak interactions could be seen via their impacts on atomic states and transitions. She carried this interest in symmetry breaking effects further in her work in high energy physics experiments on B mesons and their decays as a faculty member at Cornell University. She then moved her interest to particle astrophysics and played an important role in the building of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which is now pouring back scientifically important data on gamma rays in space; she remains a collaborator on that project.  In 2007 she became the fourth director of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

There are currently just over 2,000 active NAS members.  Among the NAS's renowned members are Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, and Alexander Graham Bell.  Over 180 living Academy members have won Nobel Prizes.

Established in 1863, the National Academy of Sciences has served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.  For more information, or for the full list of newly elected members, please read the National Academy of Sciences' Press Release.

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