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Updated 3:00 PM May 8, 2003



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Two faculty members elected to National Academy of Sciences

Two U-M faculty members were among those elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS) April 29.

Lennard Fisk, professor and chair of the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences in the College of Engineering, and Martha Ludwig, professor of biological chemistry and a research scientist in the Biophysics Research Division, are among 72 new members and 18 foreign associates elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Fisk is an active researcher in both theoretical and experimental studies of the solar atmosphere and its expansion into space to form the heliosphere (the region in space influenced by the sun or solar wind). He heads the Solar and Helio-spheric Research Group, which develops new theoretical concepts and models, and analyzes data from the ongoing NASA Ulysses, WIND and ACE missions, which constructs new flight hardware for upcoming missions such as the NASA MESSENGER mission to Mercury.

Prior to joining the University in July 1993, Fisk was associate administrator for space science and applications at NASA. In this position, he was responsible for the planning and direction of all programs concerned with space science and applications, and for the institutional management of the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Fisk earned his A.B. from Cornell University and his doctorate from the University of California, San Diego.

Ludwig uses X-ray crystallography to study the structure and function of enzymes from living organisms. Many of the enzymes she studies change their shape when they bind to or interact with other molecules. Identifying the enzyme's physical structure and how it changes during interaction with other molecules provides important clues about the enzyme's function.

Her most recent research has focused on two enzymes called methylenetetra-hydrofolate reductase, or MTHFR, and methionine synthase. Both enzymes catalyze critical steps in the biochemical chain of reactions within cells that convert homocysteine to an essential amino acid called methionine. Conducted in collaboration with Rowena G. Matthews, a charter faculty member of the Life Sciences Institute, this research has demonstrated how folic acid reduces the amount of homocysteine, which is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, strokes and birth defects in humans. It also has shown how vitamin B12 interacts with methionine synthase to catalyze the formation of methionine.

Ludwig received her B.A. from Cornell University, her M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her doctorate from the Cornell University Medical College. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard before joining the U-M faculty in 1967.

Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded an American scientist or engineer. NAS 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, which calls on the academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

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