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January 4, 2006
Leading Scientists and Journalists Win 2006 Sigma Xi Awards
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC - Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) biologist Susan L. Lindquist, MIT physicist and novelist Alan Lightman, Oak Ridge National Laboratory astrophysicist W. Raphael Hix and science journalists Claudia Dreifus and Richard L. Hill have been selected to receive the top annual awards presented by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.
Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi is the international honor society for research scientists and engineers, with more than 500 chapters in North America and around the world. Over the course of the society's history, more than 200 members have received the Nobel Prize. Sigma Xi's administrative offices are in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Susan L. Lindquist will receive Sigma Xi's 2006 William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement. A professor of biology at MIT, she is a pioneer in the stress response and protein folding. Her research has provided a framework for understanding diseases such as Alzheimer's and mad cow, which are marked by plaque in the brain caused by the misfolding of proteins.
The Procter Prize has been presented annually since 1950 to an outstanding scientist or engineer who is known for effective communication of complex ideas. The prize includes a Steuben glass sculpture and $5,000. The recipient also selects a young colleague to receive a $5,000 Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research.
Alan Lightman will receive Sigma Xi's 2006 John P. McGovern Science and Society Award, presented annually since 1984 for contributions to science and society. The award consists of a medal and $5,000.
Lightman is a best-selling novelist, essayist, physicist and educator. His essays on science have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Smithsonian, Discover, Harper's, Nature and The New York Times. His 1993 best-selling novel, Einstein's Dreams, was adopted for campus-wide readings at many colleges and universities. Lightman teaches at MIT.
W. Raphael Hix, a theoretical astrophysicist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will receive Sigma Xi's 2006 Young Investigator Award. The award includes $5,000 and a certificate of recognition. Sigma Xi members within 10 years of their highest earned degree are eligible for this award.
Hix is described by colleagues as one of the most talented young researchers in theoretical nuclear astrophysics in the world today. He is working in the areas of nuclear physics, novae, supernovae, X-ray and gamma-ray bursts and stellar structure and evolution. His expertise is in nucleosynthesis--the study of the cosmic origins of the elements that make up the world and everything in it.
Claudia Dreifus and Richard Hill will be inducted as honorary Sigma Xi members. A science writer for The New York Times, Dreifus collected many of the interviews for which she is famous in a book called Scientific Conversations. Hill is an award-winning science writer for The Oregonian and a leading advocate for increasing public awareness about science.
Since 1983 some of the nation's top science journalists, as well as others who have made important contributions to science but who are ineligible for Sigma Xi membership, have been elected honorary members.
The 2006 Sigma Xi awards will be presented at the society's annual meeting in Detroit on November 2-5, 2006. Profiles of award winners will appear in American Scientist magazine, published bimonthly by Sigma Xi.
Susan L. Lindquist
Susan Lindquist is a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1976, going to the University of Chicago as an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow before joining the faculty there in 1977. Lindquist served as director of MIT's Whitehead Institute from 2001-2004. She is well known for her work on proteins in yeast and fruit flies, research that provided the evidence for a new form of genetics based upon the inheritance of proteins with new, self-perpetuating shapes. This work provided a framework for understanding diseases such as Alzheimer's and mad cow, which are marked by plaque in the brain caused by the misfolding of proteins. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow in American Academy of Microbiology. Colleagues and students say she is a dynamic, passionate speaker who can explain complicated concepts with ease.
Alan Lightman is a physicist, novelist, and essayist who, from an early age, was entranced by both science and the arts. He received his AB degree from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1974. He has served on the faculty at Harvard University, and from 1979-1989 was a research scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. His essays about science, as well as short fiction and reviews, have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Smithsonian, Discover, Harper's, Nature and The New York Times. His 1993 novel, Einstein's Dreams, was an international best-seller and has been adopted for campus-wide readings at many colleges and universities. His other books include The Diagnosis, Reunion, A Sense of the Mysterious and The Discoveries. Lightman has not only served as professor of science and writing and senior lecturer in physics at MIT, but also has headed the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies there. He is currently an adjunct professor of humanities.
W. Raphael Hix
William Raphael Hix received his B.S. in physics/astronomy and mathematics at the University of Maryland and his Ph.D. in astronomy at Harvard University. He has been on the research staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory since 2004, and a member of the Theoretical Astrophysics group there since 1997. He is also an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Hix is described by colleagues as one of the most talented young researchers in theoretical nuclear astrophysics in the world today. His expertise is in nucleosynthesis--the study of the cosmic origins of the elements that make up the world and everything in it. He is studying a wide range of astrophysical events, including novae, supernovae, X-ray and gamma-ray bursts. He is also known for mentoring students and communicating the excitement of science to the general public. He and his wife, Dacia, are the proud parents of Ronan and Lorelei.
As a journalist, educator and lecturer, Claudia Dreifus is widely recognized for her abilities in interviewing scientists and communicating the complexities of their work to the public. Before coming to the "Science Times" section of The New York Times, Dreifus was known for her incisive interviews with international political figures and cultural icons. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Playboy, Ms., The Progressive, and Modern Maturity. In her book, Scientific Conversations: Interviews on Science from The New York Times, she delves into the thoughts and lives of some of the most intriguing minds in science. From Nobel laureates to virtually unknown innovators, across a multitude of scientific disciplines, she introduces and explains the personalities behind the great accomplishments. The book was partially funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Dreifus has been a pioneering and original force in making science more accessible. She is an adjunct assistant professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Policy and has contributed to many textbooks and anthologies. She is also a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute of the New School for Social Research. Her many honors include an Outstanding Magazine Article Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Dreifus lives in New York City with her domestic partner, political scientist Andrew Hacker. They are currently writing a book together on American higher education.
For the past 18 years, Richard Hill has been the science writer at The Oregonian, where he has been involved in producing the newspaper's weekly science section. He has written more than 2,500 science stories on a wide variety of subjects, from eruptions at Mount S. Helens to the hazards posed by the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Northwest coast. In 2000, Hill was the first recipient of the American Geophysical Union's David Perlman Award for Excellence in Science Writing. He has also received the C. B. Blethen Memorial Award for Distinguished Reporting and has won several regional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has been a media fellow at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and has participated in two NOAA research cruises, including the first exploration of the Astoria Canyon off the Northwest coast. The Oregon Science Teachers Association and the Columbia-Willamette Chapter of Sigma Xi have recognized Hill for his work. He recently published a book for the general public, Volcanoes of the Cascades: Their Rise and Their Risks. A former board member of the National Association of Science Writers, he has also been a reporter and editor at the Dallas Times Herald and The Christian Science Monitor. Hill has a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.