Elson elected fellow of arts and sciences academy

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis faculty member Elliot L. Elson, PhD, has been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Elson, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, is one of 186 Americans elected as fellows this year by the academy, an organization formed in 1780 to cultivate the arts and sciences and to recognize leadership in scholarship, business, the arts and public affairs.

The academy has more than 4,500 members, including some 250 Nobel laureates and 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. Fellows are selected through a competitive process that recognizes individuals who have made prominent contributions to their disciplines and society.

“I am delighted that a member of our outstanding faculty has received this tremendous honor,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Dr. Elson is a dedicated scientist, and this recognition is well-deserved. This achievement demonstrates the good fortune we have had at Washington University in attracting premier faculty.”

This year’s new fellows and foreign honorary members will be welcomed during an induction ceremony Oct. 12 at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.


Elson joined the faculty of Washington University as a professor in 1979. In addition to his appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, he is also a professor of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and an adjunct professor of physics in Arts & Sciences.

His research focuses on cellular motion, the movement and distribution of cell surface proteins and the forces that determine the shapes of cells. He and members of his lab also have studied artificial cardiovascular tissues, including their mechanical and electrical properties.

Elson and his lab members also are well-known for designing and building their own unique instruments to answer specialized questions. One such instrument evolved from a novel technique to measure molecular motion. Elson began developing the technique in the late 1960s, while a faculty member at Cornell University. Called fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), it has evolved into a sophisticated technology that has been widely adopted in labs around the world.

Elson, a St. Louis native, earned a doctoral degree in biochemistry from Stanford University in 1964 and went on to postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Diego. He joined the faculty of Cornell University in 1968.

In 2007, Elson received the Gregorio Weber Award for Excellence in Fluorescence Theory and Applications. The international award recognizes distinguished individuals who have made original and significant contributions to the field of fluorescence. Elson was honored with the Weber Award for his extensive research in fluorescence, including the development of FCS and his continuing work to refine and advance the technique.

Elson has authored more than 160 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. He has served on the editorial boards of several of these journals, including The Journal of Cell Biology, Biopolymers and Biophysical Journal. He is a member of the Biophysical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.