The University Record, May 8, 2000

Dixon, Veltman named to National Academy of Sciences

By Sally Pobojewski
Health System Public Relations and News and Information Services

Jack E. Dixon, the Minor J. Coon Professor of Biological Chemistry and chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry, and Martinus J.G. Veltman, the John D. MacArthur Professor Emeritus of Physics and winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in physics, are among the 60 U.S. scientists and 15 foreign associates elected May 2 to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

NAS members are elected in recognition of distinguished and continuing achievements in original scientific research. Those elected May 2 bring the total number of active members to 1,843. Dixon is one of 21 NAS members from the U-M. Veltman is one of 320 non-voting foreign associates.

“For a scientist, election to the National Academy of Sciences is the highest recognition short of the Nobel Prize,” said Gilbert S. Omenn, executive vice president for medical affairs. “Jack Dixon is one of the nation’s pre-eminent biochemists. His work on peptides and more recently on the PTEN tumor suppressor gene has enormous applications in medicine. Jack has simultaneously been an innovator in education and administrative leadership. We are very proud to have him on our faculty at the U-M.”

Dixon studies the structure and function of the protein tyrosine phosphatases or PTPases and their important role in cellular signaling. He also has made fundamental contributions to scientific understanding of hormone biosynthesis and processing.

“In addition to his outstanding research contributions, Jack has chaired the faculty advisory committee for the U-M’s new Life Sciences Initiative,” said President Lee C. Bollinger. “If there were a comparable honor for University citizenship, Jack would be one of the first members of the faculty to be inducted.”

Dixon came to the U-M in 1991 from Purdue University where he was the Harvey W. Wiley Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry. He received a B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1966 and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1971.

Dixon is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Institute of Medicine and past president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He also serves on the National Scientific Review Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dixon was named the Michigan Scientist of the Year in 1994. In 1997, he received the U-M Distinguished Faculty Lectureship Award in Biomedical Research. In 1999, he was chosen as the Henry Russel Lecturer, the highest honor the University gives to a senior faculty member.

Dixon said he was notified of his election in a series of early morning telephone calls from current U-M members. Next spring, he will attend a formal ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., where he will add his signature to a book with names of all NAS members elected since the Academy was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

“You are always surprised when these things happen, but it’s great news,” Dixon said. “It is really gratifying, because we are elected by our peers who think highly of our scientific work. I’m delighted to be selected, but we have many other deserving people here at the U-M and I’m hopeful they will be elected also in coming years.”

Veltman joined the U-M in 1981 after 15 years as a professor of physics at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. He retired in 1997.

Veltman shared the 1999 Nobel Prize in physics with Gerardus ‘t Hooft, who is now a professor at the University of Utrecht. They received the prize for work done in the 1960s and 1970s that made it possible for physicists to mathematically predict properties of the sub-atomic particles that make up all matter in the universe and the forces that hold these particles together.

Veltman’s work was vital to the 1995 discovery of the top quark, which was observed for the first time during experiments conducted at the FermiLab particle accelerator near Chicago.

Veltman is a member of the Dutch Academy of Science and is a fellow of the American Physical Society. He has served on policy committees at all of the world’s major high energy physics laboratories. Among his many honors are the U-M Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, the Alexander von Humboldt Award (Germany); doctor honoris causa from the State University of New York-Stonybrook; and the Fifth Physica Lezing (the Netherlands). In 1992 he was knighted into the Dutch order of the Lion in honor of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. He received the 1993 High Energy Physics Prize from the European Netherlands Society.

Other U-M NAS members are: Richard D. Alexander, Robert Axelrod, Hyman Bass, Philip E. Converse, Minor J. Coon, H. Richard Crane, Horace W. Davenport, Thomas M. Donahue, Kent V. Flannery, Ronald Freedman, William Fulton, Stanley M. Garn, F.W. Gehring, Melvin Hochster, Joyce Marcus, Vincent Massey, James N. Morgan, J. Lawrence Oncley, Edward E. Smith and Henry T. Wright.