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Brandeis faculty awarded the National Medal of Science at the White House

Brandeis is proud to have numerous achievements and accolades from faculty. In a moment of exceptional pride, on Tuesday, Oct. 24, two of our esteemed faculty received a distinct honor from the President of the United States.

The National Medal of Science is the highest recognition for scientists and engineers awarded in the United States. “Administered by the U.S. National Science Foundation, it is bestowed by the President of the United States on individuals deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the knowledge of physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, or social and behavioral sciences, in service to the Nation.

In a statement from President Joe Biden, these Americans “have made exemplary achievements in science, technology, and innovation to strengthen our nation’s well-being.”

Among the nine award recipients, two are from Brandeis.

University Professor and Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience Eve Marder ’69 runs the Marder Lab at the Volen Center for Complex Systems primarily in modulation of neural networks. Promoted to University Professor in April 2019, one of Brandeis’ most prestigious academic honors, Marder has been recognized for her commitment to science both here at Brandeis and on the national scale. Her research on small neural circuits found in lobsters and crabs has revolutionized our understanding of the fundamental nature of neuronal circuit operation. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the Biophysical Society and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In a statement from the White House, “The National Medal of Science has been awarded to Eve Marder of Brandeis University for her paradigm-shifting contributions to the understanding of neuronal circuit plasticity, homeostatic regulation of neuronal excitability and individual variability; her visionary application of theoretical and experimental approaches to understanding neural circuits; and her inspirational advocacy of basic science.”

Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry Gregory Petsko conducts research on neurodegenerative diseases. Working with then-Professor of Biochemistry Dagmar Ringe, now retired, he discovered how to use X-ray crystallography to solve important problems in protein function. They found that protein dynamics is a function of temperature and problems in mechanistic enzymology. In his own words, “I rolled the dice… [and I’ll] change the whole direction of my research. I’m gonna learn something completely new. I’m going to tackle these problems as best I can.” He is currently Professor of Neurology in the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, and Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

While he departed in 2013, Petsko has made an impact on so many students in the biochemistry and chemistry departments here at Brandeis and currently serves on the Board of Trustees.

In a statement from the White House, “The National Medal of Science has been awarded to Gregory A. Petsko of Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital for advancing our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. His role in founding structural enzymology, along with his commitment to educating the public about brain health, have empowered people around the world and raised the ambitions of our nation regarding aging with dignity.”

“Both of these remarkable individuals have conducted significant scientific research that has had a major impact on repairing the world, and both have trained generations of Brandeisians to go out and do the same,” said Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz. Their contributions to neuroscience and chemistry on a national scale have reinforced Brandeis’ standing as an elite university in the advancement of the sciences.

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