Three U Scientists Inducted into the National Academy of Sciences

Chemist Cynthia Burrows, biochemist Wesley Sundquist and anthropologist Polly Wiessner were inducted into the National Academy of Sciences on April 25, 2015 at the 152nd Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Cynthia Burrows, Wesley Sundquist, and Polly Wiessner with the statue
of Albert Einstein on the National Mall after their induction ceremony.

University of Utah chemist Cynthia Burrows, biochemist Wesley Sundquist and anthropologist Polly Wiessner were inducted into the 2014 class of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences on April 25, 2015 at the 152nd Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Professor Burrows’ induction to the Academy brings the number of current chemistry faculty who are members to 3 (along with Peter Stang and Dale Poulter), and confirms the outstanding national reputation of our department. Cheves Walling and Henry Eyring were also members of the National Academy of Sciences during their lifetimes.

“Thrilled!” was the reaction from Prof. Burrows. “It’s wonderful recognition for the work of my students and great news for the Department of Chemistry.”

Professor Burrows joined the University of Utah in 1995 and became chemistry chair this past July. Her current efforts are aimed at finding the damaged bases in DNA that lead to mutations and cancer by passing strands of DNA through a molecule-sized pore known as a nanopore. She also studies how DNA’s structure affects the propensity of guanines to be oxidized, for example, in telomeres at the end of genes. Premature loss of telomeres has been linked to shorter lifespan.

“Guanine is the most easily damaged by oxidative stress and free radicals,” she says. “The chemistry by which this occurs helps us understand mutations and cancer.”

Visit Professor Burrows' National Academy of Sciences member profile

President Abraham Lincoln signed a congressional charter establishing the National Academy of Sciences in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science and advises the federal government about science, engineering and health policy. The three new Utah inductees bring the number of current and past U researchers who have been elected to the National Academies to 39.

National Academy of Sciences: chemist Cynthia Burrows; biochemist Wesley Sundquist; anthropologist Polly Wiessner; anthropologist James O’Connell; geneticist Mario Capecchi; chemist Peter Stang; geologist-geochemist Thure Cerling; anthropologist Henry Harpending; anthropologist Kristen Hawkes; late anthropologist Jesse D. Jennings; late chemist Cheves Walling; biochemist Sidney Velick; biologist John R. Roth; chemist Josef Michl; geneticist Ray White; late anthropologist Julian Steward; anthropologist Jeremy Sabloff; late chemist Henry Eyring; late pharmacologist Louis Goodman; biologist Baldomero “Toto” Olivera; and chemist Dale Poulter.

National Academy of Engineering: Jindrich Kopecek; the late R. Peter King; Adel Sarofim; Sung Wan Kim; Gerald Stringfellow; Donald Dahlstrom; the late George Hill; Jan D. Miller; the late Milton E. Wadsworth; the late Thomas G. Stockham; John Herbst; Stephen C. Jacobsen, the late Willem J. Kolff; Anil Virkar; and William A. Hustrulid.

Institute of Medicine: Jacobsen and Kim (both also are members of the National Academy of Engineering), Olivera (also a member of the National Academy of Sciences), obstetrician-gynecologist Eli Adashi and medical informatics professors Paul D. Clayton and the late Homer R. Warner.