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2 Faculty Members Elected to the National Academy of Sciences


Austin, Texas – prestigious National Academy of Sciences He honored two faculty members at the University of Texas at Austin. Neuroscience professor Christine Harris was among 120 newly elected members, and molecular biosciences professor Keiko Torii was among 24 newly elected international members of the NAS. Membership recognizes outstanding and sustained achievement in original research and is considered one of the highest honors a scientist can receive.

“This distinguished honor for our faculty is a reflection of the tremendous basic research happening here in life sciences disciplines as diverse as neuroscience and plant biology,” said David Vanden Put, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “Kristen Harris and Keiko Toure embody transformative research leadership and commitment to their disciplines that are leading to important advances in our understanding of the world.”

HarrisResearch focuses on understanding the structural components of the brain involved in learning and memory. She pioneered serial electron microscopy techniques that had a profound impact on the field of neurobiology. She developed a computer program for 3D reconstruction of serial electron micrographs, allowing efficient analysis of hundreds of serial sections, rather than just a handful when performed manually. Their innovation and techniques have led to a new understanding of synaptic structure under normal conditions and in response to long-term potentiation, a cellular mechanism for learning and memory.

In 2020, Harris received the Society for Neuroscience’s Micah Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award for promoting the professional advancement of women in neuroscience. In 2016, she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Tori, who holds the Johnson & Johnson Centennial Chair in Plant Cell Biology, conducts research that sheds light on aspects of the molecular genetic processes that drive plant evolution. Early in her career, she discovered how plant cells signal each other using specific receptors, and her research since then has provided important insights into how plant cells communicate with each other to decide which cells will become stomata, the pore-like structures found on the surface. Of plants.

Stomata facilitate respiration in plants, allowing the exchange of gas and moisture in the atmosphere, and are also important for photosynthesis. Torrey and her team have identified key regulators that drive stomatal differentiation from stem cells. This work has provided key information about the resilience of plants, including to climate change, helping scientists better understand the ability of plants to cope with changes such as hotter and drier environmental conditions.

Tori also received Medal of Honor with purple ribbon From the Emperor of Japan at the Imperial Palace. She has previously won a medal Steven Hales Award From the American Society of Plant Biologists, Asahi Prize From the Asahi Shimbun Foundation Saruhashi Award. She was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012 and the American Society of Plant Biologists in 2015. She is a founding member of the Institute for Translational Biomolecules at Nagoya University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholar.

With the addition of Harris and Torrey, 19 UT faculty become members of the NAS.



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