Three WUSTL professors have been elected fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The new fellows are Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D., professor of biology in Arts & Sciences; James V. Wertsch, Ph.D., the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences and director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy; and Wayne M. Yokoyama, M.D., the Sam J. Levin and Audrey Loew Levin Chair for Research on Arthritis, professor of medicine and director of the Medical Scientist Training Program.
The three are among 210 American men and women elected as fellows by the academy, an organization formed in 1870 to cultivate the arts and sciences and to recognize leadership in scholarship, business, the arts and public affairs.
“It is a tremendous honor to have three outstanding Washington University faculty recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Professors Goodenough, Wertsch and Yokoyama all are distinguished scholars in their respective fields, and this recognition is richly deserved. The diversity of their individual accomplishments indicates the good fortune we have enjoyed in strengthening our academic reputation as one of the premier universities in America.”
The academy’s membership of more than 4,600 includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. Fellows are selected through a competitive process that recognizes individuals who have made pre-eminent contributions to their disciplines and to society at large.
This year’s new fellows and foreign honorary members will be welcomed during an Oct. 10 induction ceremony at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.
Goodenough was an 18-year-old sophomore English and French literature major at Barnard College in 1961 and then switched majors and completed 120 hours, including advanced math, physics and chemistry for which she had no background, in just three years. She graduated at 20 with a bachelor’s degree cum laude in zoology in 1963.
She enrolled in the master’s program in zoology at Columbia University. By 1965, she was a doctoral candidate in biology at Harvard University, where she completed her coursework and dissertation in 1969 and then joined the faculty after two years of postdoctoral fellowship in 1971.
During her postdoctoral years she wrote the textbook “Genetics,” recognized as a classic in the field, which went through three editions and has been translated into five languages. She came to WUSTL in 1978 as associate professor of biology and was promoted to professor in 1982.
Goodenough is a high-profile molecular/cell biologist who has served as president of the American Society of Cell Biology.
She and her colleagues have elucidated key features of the life cycle of the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, including the identification of its mating-type locus and key genes involved in sex determination and the haploid-diploid transition.
Goodenough also has helped bridge the gap between science and religion, serving as president of the Institute for Religion in an Age of Science and organizing national seminars on the topic. In 1998, she introduced religious naturalism with the publication of “The Sacred Depths of Nature,” which interweaves traditional religious thought, myth and mysticism with our science-based understandings of nature.
The book explores the science behind evolution, emotions, neuroscience, the origins of life, sexuality and death while relating them to familiar religious and cultural concepts. Each of the book’s 12 chapters concludes with a reflection on the scientific insights.
Goodenough has five children and five grandchildren.
Wertsch directs the International & Area Studies Program. In addition, he holds appointments in education, psychology, anthropology and Philosophy-Neuroscience- Psychology, all in Arts & Sciences.
Wertsch joined the faculty of Arts & Sciences in 1995 as professor of education and chair of the department.
In spring 1998, he was a fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden, and, in spring 2000, he held the Meaker Professorship at Bristol University in England.
In addition, he holds honorary degrees from Linkoping University in Sweden and Oslo University in Norway, and he is an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Education and a fellow of the American Psychological Association.
Among Wertsch’s research interests are language, thought and culture, particularly the relationship between history and national identity. His most recent work analyzes the transformation that collective memory has undergone during the transition from Soviet to post-Soviet Russia.
He has received several fellowships to study in Russia and co-authored a 1994 article titled “Official and Unofficial Histories: The Case of Estonia” that was published in the Journal of Narrative and Life History. Along with more than 150 additional articles, chapters and reviews, his publications include “Vygotsky and the Social Formation of Mind”; “Voices of the Mind: A Sociocultural Approach to Mediated Action”; “Mind as Action”; and “Voices of Collective Remembering.”
Since joining the WUSTL faculty, Wertsch has played a major role in developing several areas of research and teaching in Arts & Sciences, including the International & Area Studies Program and the Arts & Sciences Interdisciplinary Initiative, which aims to foster interdisciplinary teaching and research across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.
Wertsch earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1969; a master’s in education from Northwestern University in 1971; and a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Chicago in 1975.
Yokoyama is internationally recognized for his research into an important component of the immune system that protects against viruses and tumors.
Yokoyama’s studies have helped show how various mechanisms license, restrain and unleash natural killer (NK) cells. His lab was the first to provide the molecular basis for a theory known as the “missing self” hypothesis.
Prior to the discovery of NK cells, scientists had conceptualized the immune system’s method for recognizing invaders as comparable to that of police using an all-points bulletin: An alert went out that a particular invader had been seen, and immune system cells searched for and attacked that invader when they found it.
NK cells opened up a new possibility more comparable to that of a border guard. Scientists suspected NK cells were checking the molecular “credentials” of everything they encountered and could attack if the proper identification wasn’t forthcoming. In 1992, Yokoyama’s lab was the first to identify a receptor on the surface of NK cells that enabled this process.
The receptor inhibits NK cell function when it recognizes the appropriate credentials, which in this case are major histocompatibility complex class I molecules. Normally present on the surface of cells, these molecules often are absent on tumors and virus-infected cells, allowing the NK cell to attack the abnormal cells that are “missing-self.”
Yokoyama, who also is director of the Medical Scientist Training Program, clinical attending physician in internal medicine and rheumatology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, was the 2001 recipient of the Novartis Prize for Basic Research in Immunology, which is awarded only once every three years at the International Congress of Immunology.
He earned a medical degree at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
He came to the School of Medicine in 1995 as the director of the Division of Rheumatology in the Department of Medicine.