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Four MIT professors elected to the American Philosophical Society

Stephen Lippard, whose research includes methane gas structure investigations, among those elected

Helen Knight May 16, 2016 MIT News

Four MIT faculty members have been elected to the prestigious American Philosophical Society.

It is the first time in the society’s history that four members from the same institution have been elected.

MIT’s four new members are: Alar Toomre, professor emeritus of applied mathematics; Stephen Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry; Ann Graybiel, Institute Professor and member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research; and Ellen T. Harris, the Class of 1949 Professor Emeritus of Music.

The four MIT researchers were among 33 new members elected to the society from academia, the arts, the professions, and public and private affairs.

Ann Graybiel

Ann Graybiel studies parts of the brain known as basal ganglia, which are known for their role in controlling movement and motivation. The structures are implicated in conditions such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, obsessive compulsive disorder, and addiction.

Graybiel’s research focuses on the role of the basal ganglia in the learning that leads to the formation of habits, including those of action, thought, and emotion. She is investigating the development of therapeutic drugs, based on genes her group have discovered in an area of the basal ganglia known as the striatum.

Graybiel studied biology and chemistry at Harvard University, graduating in 1964. She received her PhD from MIT in 1971, and joined the faculty in 1973. In 2001, she was appointed Investigator at the McGovern Institute, in 2002 she received MIT’s Killian Award, and in 2008 she was named Institute Professor, the highest academic award at MIT.

She is a recipient of the National Medal of Science, and shared the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience. She received the Woman Leader of Parkinson’s Science from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, and was named the Harold S. Diamond Professor by the National Parkinson Foundation in recognition of her contribution to the understanding and treatment of this disease.

Graybiel is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Ellen Harris

Ellen T. Harris is a musicologist and performing soprano. Her research focuses on Baroque opera, in particular the work of Handel and Purcell.

Harris graduated from Brown University in 1967 and received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1976. She joined MIT in 1989, as the first associate provost for the arts.

She is president of the American Musicological Society, and has won numerous awards for her work, including the Nicolas Slonimsky Award (an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award) for Outstanding Musical Biography for her most recent book, “George Frideric Handel: A Life with Friends.” She received the Otto Kindeldey Award from the American Musicological Society and the Louis Gottschalk Prize from the Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, for her previous book, “Handel as Orpheus: Voice and Desire in the Chamber Cantatas.” In 2015 she guest-curated an exhibit based on her book (and titled) “George Frideric Handel: A Life with Friends” for the Handel House Museum, London.

She served as the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar in 2013-14, and was a visiting professor at the Juilliard School in 2016. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an honorary member of the American Musicological Society.

Stephen Lippard

Stephen Lippard’s research activities span the fields of inorganic chemistry, biological chemistry, and neurochemistry. This program includes studies to understand and improve platinum anticancer drugs, structural and mechanistic investigations of the iron-containing enzyme that consumes the greenhouse hydrocarbon gas methane, and the synthesis of metal complexes as models for iron, copper, and other metalloproteins. He also develops probes for inorganic neurotransmitters, in particular zinc and nitric oxide, which are involved in learning, memory and sensory perception.

Lippard’s research on platinum complexes led to the co-founding in 2011 of Blend Therapeutics, based in Watertown, Massachusetts. Blend, now Placon Therapeutics, has recently been cleared by the Federal Drug Administration to take a new platinum compound into a Phase I clinical trial for cancer treatment.

Lippard earned his bachelor’s degree from Haverford College in 1962 and his PhD from MIT in 1965. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been awarded the National Medal of Science, the Priestly Medal — the highest honor bestowed by the American Chemical Society — the Linus Pauling Medal, the Theodore W. Richards Medal, and the William H. Nichols Medal. He has also received the Ronald Breslow Award and the Alfred Bader Award from the American Chemical Society.

Alar Toomre

Alar Toomre studies problems in astrophysics. In particular, his research involves understanding and identifying the dynamics of galaxies, including their collisions and mergers.

Toomre earned bachelor’s degrees in aeronautical engineering and physics at MIT in 1957, and then completed a PhD in fluid mechanics at Manchester University, under a Marshall Scholarship. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He has received a Magellanic Premium Medal from the American Philosophical Society for his work on the dynamics of galaxies, and the Dirk Brouwer Award for outstanding contributions to dynamical astronomy. He was also awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1984.


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