Chang, Moore, and Strick Are Elected To National Academy of Sciences

Issue Date: 
May 14, 2012

In recognition of their scientific contributions and accomplishments, three University of Pittsburgh faculty members have been elected to membership in the prestigious U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to provide independent advice to the government on matters related to science and technology.

Yuan ChangYuan Chang

Elected were the Pitt School of Medicine’s Yuan Chang, Distinguished Professor and American Cancer Society Professor in the Department of Pathology, and Patrick S. Moore, Distinguished Professor and American Cancer Society Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, who together identified two of the seven known human cancer-causing viruses; and Peter Strick, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Neurobiology, whose focus is on understanding the neural circuitry that controls voluntary movement.

The three Pitt Distinguished Professors were among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 15 countries who were recognized this year for “their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research,” according to the NAS announcement, which added, “Election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer.”

Patrick MoorePatrick Moore

Pitt had the third-highest number of newly elected members of the National Academy of Sciences among U.S. institutions of higher education, tied with Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Washington. Among the universities with fewer newly elected members were Cornell, Harvard, Michigan, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, and Yale; only three had more new members—Berkeley and Princeton (four), and Stanford (six).

“To have a single faculty member elected to the National Academy of Sciences would be a cause for celebration, but to have three colleagues elected in a single year is a remarkable achievement,” said University Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. “More than anything, this is a well-deserved tribute to the pioneering work being done by Professors Chang, Moore, and Strick. It also is reflective of a culture that supports research of impact at Pitt and is a credit to the recruiting skills of Senior Vice Chancellor Dr. Arthur S. Levine, who has brought all five of the National Academy members in our School of Medicine to Pittsburgh.”

Peter StrickPeter Strick

“Drs. Chang, Moore, and Strick are outstanding researchers who have greatly added to our understanding of challenging biological questions,” said Levine, who also is the dean of the School of Medicine. “Their election to the Academy is indicative of the quality of their research and the importance of their findings.”

Chang and Moore are coleaders of the Cancer Virology Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. In 1994, they discovered the virus known as Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus, or herpesvirus 8, which causes Kaposi’s sarcoma, the most common AIDS-related malignancy. In 2008, they identified Merkel cell polyomavirus, which causes a rare and deadly skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma. Both received their medical degrees from the University of Utah College of Medicine.

Strick is director of the Systems Neuroscience Institute, codirector of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, and a senior VA research career scientist within the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. Strick’s research investigates the neural circuits that are responsible for the control of voluntary movement, cognition, and affect. He developed the use of viruses with an affinity for neurons as a new technique for unraveling connections in the central nervous system. He received his doctorate in anatomy from the University of Pennsylvania.

The School of Medicine now is the professional home to five active NAS members, the largest number in its history. Susan G. Amara, the Thomas Detre Professor and chair, Department of Neurobiology, was elected in 2004, and Angela M. Gronenborn, the UPMC Rosalind Franklin Professor and chair, Department of Structural Biology, was elected in 2007. In addition, Pitt Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Robert D. Drennan in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences was elected an NAS member in 2004.