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David Bricker
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2008

IU Bloomington biologists receive top American honors

April 30, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington biologists Thomas Kaufman and Michael Wade were elected this week to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, respectively. The elections are among the highest honors American scientists can receive.

Wade will officially be inducted into the American Academy at a ceremony in Cambridge, Mass., on Oct. 11. Kaufman will be inducted into the National Academy at the organization's next annual meeting (April 2009) in Washington, D.C.

"These honors are well deserved recognition for two faculty members who have long excelled as both teachers and researchers," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "This academic distinction reflects positively on the Department of Biology, and the University more broadly, and our goal to create academic environments where brilliant, independent minds can prosper."

Thomas Kaufman

Distinguished Professor of Biology Thomas Kaufman

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Thomas Kaufman, a Distinguished Professor of Biology and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, has made numerous contributions to developmental biology, particularly developmental genetics. Among Kaufman's coups in fruit fly developmental genetics was his 1980 discovery of a cluster of mutations in Drosophila melanogaster called the Antennapedia Complex. Mutations in a genetic component of the complex can cause legs to grow where a fly's antennae should be, while another causes legs to replace the mouth parts. The discovery represented a major step forward in scientists' understanding of animal body plan development. Kaufman has also facilitated Drosophila research by creating, with his colleague Dr. Kathleen Matthews, the world's most comprehensive stock collection of fly mutants, and helping maintain FlyBase, the world's most comprehensive Internet tool for fly research.

"During his 33 years at IU, Thom Kaufman has made a series of path-breaking discoveries concerning the action of genes that control development of Drosophila, one of the two most important model organisms in biomedical research," said Biology Chair Jeffrey Palmer. "In so doing, Thom has established himself as the intellectual heir and equal of Nobel laureate Hermann Muller, who conducted his last 22 years of research on Drosophila as an IU Bloomington faculty member."

Michael Wade

Distinguished Professor of Biology Michael Wade

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Michael Wade, also a Distinguished Professor of biology, is an expert on sexual selection, that is, natural selection on traits associated with mating and reproduction. But Wade has also made significant contributions to a highly contentious area of evolutionary biology -- the tension between natural selection on individuals and on groups in the origin and maintenance of social behaviors. Wade has had an important role in developing the influential Chicago School of Evolutionary Genetics Theory, helping extend the basic statistical framework used by plant and animal breeders (quantitative genetics) into a major evolutionary theory. The theory launched hundreds of dissertations, not to mention the careers of many prominent evolutionary biologists.

"It was a great coup when IU recruited Mike Wade from the University of Chicago 10 years ago, where he was then chair of one of the very finest departments of evolution and ecology in the country," Palmer said. "Mike's election to the American Academy recognizes his more than 30 years of ground-breaking work in evolutionary and population genetics. Mike is also one of our very finest and most devoted teachers and a terrific colleague at all levels of this university."

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln. The American Academy of Arts & Sciences was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots, and includes about 200 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

To speak with Wade, Kaufman, Palmer, or McRobbie, please contact David Bricker, University Communications, at 812-856-9035 or