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Elaine Fuchs receives National Medal of Science

Elaine Fuchs, Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor and head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development at Rockefeller University, has been named a recipient of the National Medal of Science, the White House announced today. The medal is the nation’s highest scientific honor.

Fuchs, along with eight other laureates, will be honored during a White House ceremony with President Obama on October 7. She is the 14th Rockefeller scientist to receive the National Medal of Science since the award was established in 1959.

Fuchs, who also is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is being honored “for her pioneering use of cell biology and molecular genetics in mice to understand the basis of inherited diseases in humans and her outstanding contributions to our understanding of the biology of skin and its disorders, including her notable investigations of adult skin stem cells, cancers and genetic syndromes.” Fuchs’s contributions to skin biology and its associated human diseases have had a major impact on biomedical science. They have provided insights into our understanding of how stem cells of all types are able to rejuvenate tissues throughout life and also repair them after injury.

Fuchs received her B.S. in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1972 and her Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1977 from Princeton University. She was a postdoc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1977 to 1980. Fuchs was the Amgen Professor of Basic Sciences at The University of Chicago before coming to Rockefeller in 2002. She was named the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor the same year. She has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator since 1988.

Fuchs has received a number of honors and awards, including the Bering Award and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Award for Scientific Excellence in 2006, the Dickson Prize in Medicine in 2004, the Novartis/Drew Award in Biomedical Research in 2003, the Cartwright Award from Columbia University in 2002 and the Women in Cell Biology Senior Women’s Career Achievement Award in 1997. In 1994 Fuchs was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2005 and the NAS in 1995. In 1985, the White House named Fuchs one of the Nation’s Outstanding Scientists. She also holds honorary doctorates from the University of Illinois and the Mount Sinai and New York University Medical Schools.

Currently, there are three recipients of the National Medal of Science on campus: Fuchs, President Emeritus Torsten N. Wiesel and Vincent Astor Professor Emeritus James E. Darnell Jr.