Willard Elected to National Academy of Sciences

April 30, 2013

Durham, NC – Huntington Willard, PhD, the founding director of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy (IGSP), has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist in the United States.

Hunt Willard_April 2013 NewsWillard joined the faculty at Duke in 2003 as IGSP director and the Nanaline H. Duke Professor of Genome Sciences in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology and the Department of Biology.

“Hunt is a towering figure in the field of human genetics, and it is wonderful to see him recognized and honored by election to the National Academy,” said Nancy Andrews, vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of the Duke University School of Medicine.

“This is just a wonderful recognition of Hunt’s role as a scientist and as a leader of science,” said Duke Provost Peter Lange. “Since his time at Duke, he has not only provided outstanding leadership for the IGSP but he has distinguished himself by the strong role he has played in undergraduate education in genomics and as a spokesperson for interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching.”

With his lab — known as “the Sandbox” — Willard has described previously unknown roles played by non-coding RNA in the regulation of gene expression. His lab also identified the function of repeated DNA families in the orderly segregation of chromosomes during cell division. Both discoveries have led to the development of major areas of inquiry in genomics, epigenetics, diagnosis of chromosome disorders, and human disease biology.

“I am thrilled by this news and grateful to my colleagues in the National Academy for honoring my group’s contributions over the past three decades,” Willard said. “It is wonderfully rewarding to have the students and others in the Sandbox recognized in this way.”

Willard’s current interests include undergraduate education and the broad implications of genome sciences for biology, medicine and society. He becomes the 21st living academy member on the Duke faculty.

He will be inducted into the Academy along with 83 others next April during its 151st annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furthering science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.  Established in 1863, the National Academy of Sciences has served to “investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art” whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.  There are currently 2,252 active NAS members. Nearly 200 living Academy members have won Nobel Prizes.

For the full list of newly elected members, visit www.nationalacademies.org