Erik Trinkaus, PhD, considered by many to be the world’s most influential scholar of Neandertal and early modern human biology and evolution, and Wayne M. Yokoyama, MD, an internationally renowned immunologist and arthritis researcher, will receive Washington University’s 2011 faculty achievement awards, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton announced.
Trinkaus, the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor in Arts & Sciences and professor of biological anthropology, is the recipient of the Arthur Holly Compton Faculty Achievement Award, and Yokoyama, the Sam J. and Audrey Loew Levin Chair for Research in Arthritis and director of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), is the recipient of the Carl and Gerty Cori Faculty Achievement Award.
They will receive their awards and give presentations of their scholarly work during a ceremony in December.
“Professors Trinkaus and Yokoyama are extremely deserving of this important recognition,” Wrighton says. “Both were selected by their peers as scholars who have distinguished themselves as outstanding in areas of teaching and research. Each has become a leader in their chosen field, and Washington University is fortunate for their service as members of our faculty.”
Trinkaus, a member of the WUSTL faculty since 1997, is a biological anthropologist who conducts research that focuses on the evolution of the genus Homo — which is the genus of modern humans — as a background to recent human diversity.
He has focused on the behavior and biology of late archaic and early modern humans, in the context of their archaeological record. His research also includes considerations of the origins of modern humans’ phylogenetic debate and the patterns of recent human anatomical variation.
Trinkaus’ work has earned him international recognition. He was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1996, one of the highest honors a scientist can achieve, and is a member of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Societe d’Anthropologie de Paris and Anthropological Society of Nippon.
Trinkaus earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1970 and a master’s degree and doctorate in 1973 and 1975, respectively, from the University of Pennsylvania.
He taught for nine years at Harvard University and 14 years at the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque and twice had been a visiting professor at the Université de Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France, before coming to WUSTL as a professor of anthropology.
He was named the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Anthropology at WUSTL in 2002. He has served as graduate coordinator for the Department of Anthropology since 2007.
In addition to his research and administrative responsibilities, Trinkaus teaches courses on “Paleoanthropology,” “Human Variation,” “Pleistocene Peopling of Eurasia,” “Human Functional Anatomy” and more. He also mentors graduate and postdoctoral students.
Trinkaus has authored or edited 11 books, monographs and volumes and has published more than 250 scholarly articles and chapters. He currently serves as associate editor of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and Anthropological Science and as an academic editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
Yokoyama, a professor of medicine and of pathology and immunology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, is highly regarded for his research on the immune system, particularly on the workings of natural killer (NK) cells, a type of immune cell involved in the protection against viruses and tumors and believed to be involved in some autoimmune processes such as arthritis.
His studies have helped to show how various mechanisms facilitate, restrain or unleash these cells.
In groundbreaking work, Yokoyama found a region of the genome that encodes NK cell receptors called the NK gene complex. The lab also studies how certain viruses, such as herpesviruses and poxviruses, naturally evade the immune system, providing insight into how the immune system functions in host defense.
Yokoyama also is an attending physician on the internal medicine and rheumatology services at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
As director of the MSTP, the largest program of its kind in the United States, he is active in training physician-scientists. Students in MSTP graduate with a medical degree and a doctorate.
He was recruited to Washington University in 1995 as chief of the Division of Rheumatology in the Department of Medicine, a position he held until 2007 when he stepped down to become the director of the MSTP. He has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 1997.
Yokoyama earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Rochester and a medical degree at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He completed an internship, residency and a clinical and research fellowship at the University of Iowa Hospitals and a basic immunology research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Among his many awards and honors include a MERIT Award from the NIH, the Novartis Prize for Basic Research in Immunology and the Lee C. Howley Prize for Research in Arthritis from the Arthritis Foundation. He was also elected to the National Academy of Sciences.