Six UC Berkeley faculty elected to prestigious National Academy of Sciences

By Robert Sanders, Public Affairs

BERKELEY--Six faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences - the largest contingent from any institution in the country. This brings to 125 the total number of NAS members on campus, not to mention three foreign associates.

The six new members are Elwyn R. Berlekamp and Vaughan F. R. Jones, professors of mathematics; Steven E. Lindow, professor of plant and microbial biology; Richard J. Saykally, professor of chemistry; Kenneth W. Wachter, chairman of demography and professor of demography and statistics; and William "Jack" Welch, professor of astronomy and of electrical engineering.

They were among 60 new members and 15 new foreign associates announced April 27, chosen by the academy "in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research."

Election to membership in the academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded an American scientist or engineer. Those elected Tuesday bring the total number of active members to 1,825.

Elwyn Berlekamp first came to UC Berkeley in 1964 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. After a brief stint at Bell Telephone Laboratories, he returned in 1971 with a joint appointment in mathematics and electrical engineering.

One of his major interests has been error-correcting codes, which allow a message to be sent and understood even if some information is lost along the way. Such codes are used by NASA to communicate with deep-space probes, and even in CD players.

He founded a company, Cyclotomics, that developed encoders and decoders based on his insights. The company was bought out by Eastman Kodak in 1985. Under his leadership, Cyclotomics designed and developed a variety of innovative electronic subsystem and full-custom integrated circuits that use algorithms for error-correcting codes for both aerospace and commercial applications. These included the prototype design for the Cinema Digital Sound system.

His other specialty, combinatorial game theory, led to significant insights into mathematics, some by way of application to popular games, like the Asian chess-like game Go.

Berlekamp received his BS, MS and PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received various honors, including the Centennial Medal, the Koji Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award and the R. W. Hamming Medal, all from IEEE, and was selected as Eta Kappa Nu's "Outstanding Young Electrical Engineer" in 1971. He holds a dozen patents.

Vaughan F. R. Jones is a 1990 Fields Medalist, the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel prize winner. He is best known for his contributions to knot theory, which have had major implications for biologists researching DNA as well as for quantum physicists.

He gained international acclaim in 1984 when he discovered the Jones polynomials, which provide a list of numbers that help characterize a given knot. Knots have fascinated mathematicians for centuries, and Jones' discovery proved to be the best method to date for determining whether two complex knots that look very different are really the same.

The Jones polynomials have proven useful in analyzing the twists and turns of DNA as well as the intricate mathematics of statistical mechanics, and have provided insight into the "string" theories of quantum mechanics.

A native of New Zealand, Jones received his BSc from the University of Auckland and his Docteur ès Sciences from the Ecole de Mathematiques in Geneva, Switzerland. He has been on the mathematics faculty since 1985, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Steven Lindow studies bacteria that live on the surface of healthy plants, in particular bacteria that are active in ice nucleation and thus cause frost damage. In 1975 he discovered that a single gene in the widespread bacterium Pseudomonas syringae triggers much of the world's frost damage to crops. He then used recombinant DNA techniques to delete the gene and proposed to test the genetically engineered bacterium on potatoes. After much protest by those opposed to genetic engineering, in 1987 he was able to go ahead with open-air experiments. The tests proved that a well-timed application of the bacterium could cut frost damage without threatening the environment.

Lindow applies both molecular genetic and ecological approaches in his study of the interaction of epiphytic bacteria with other microorganisms on plants, and the interactions of these organisms with the plants on which they live. A major goal of his work is to develop innovative methods that do not involve chemical pesticides for controlling plant-associated bacteria.

Lindow obtained his BS from Oregon State University and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has received both the CIBA/Geigy Award and the Ruth Allen Award from the American Phytopathological Society, and was elected a fellow of the society in 1994. In 1996 he was appointed Chancellors Professor at UC Berkeley.

Richard J. Saykally is a physical chemist whose principal interest has been the structure of water. He and his colleagues are best known for recent discoveries into the detailed nature of water clusters - groups of two or more water molecules. They have created isolated clusters of two, three, four, five and six water molecules, which they then hit with a precision infrared laser to see how they tumble and vibrate. From these studies they have been able to show that the molecules link together in a ring and dance about on the scale of a trillionth of a second.

They also are involved in ongoing efforts to understand the role of carbon in interstellar dust, and are developing the cavity ringdown direct laser absorption spectrometer. New areas they are exploring include non-linear spectroscopic surface imaging and supercooled liquid water studies using thin liquid jets.

A faculty member since 1979, Saykally received his BS from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Optical Society of America, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the American Physical Society. Among his many awards are the Michelson Prize for Spectroscopy from the Coblentz Society, the E. K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy of the American Physical Society, and the E. R. Lippincott Medal for Spectroscopy of the Optical Society of America.

Kenneth W. Wachter is a statistician interested in how systematic constraints and random influences shape the structure of human populations. Recent work involves understanding how today's social trends, such as low fertility, divorce and remarriage, will affect the kin and family support available to the elderly in the next century.

In order to predict population trends, he developed with colleague Eugene A. Hammel a demographic computer microsimulation program, called SOCSIM, that they have applied to a variety of problems in family demography, aging, kinship, anthropological and historical demography.

He has written or edited five books on subjects ranging from longevity to meta-analysis.

Wachter obtained his AB from Harvard University and his PhD in statistics from Cambridge University, England. He has been at UC Berkeley since 1979, and is a fellow of the American Statistical Association, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1988 he received the Mindel Sheps Award from the Population Association of America for outstanding contributions to mathematical demography and demographic methodology.

William "Jack" Welch was recently appointed to the Watson and Marilyn Alberts Chair in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, established in the Department of Astronomy at UC Berkeley. A well-known radio astronomer, he is former director of UC Berkeley's Radio Astronomy Laboratory and currently is vice president of the Mountain View-based SETI Institute. His specialty areas include millimeter-wave interferometry, molecular-line radio astronomy, star formation and instrumentation for radio astronomy. He currently has a joint appointment in the astronomy and electrical engineering departments.

Welch earned his PhD in electrical engineering from UC Berkeley in 1960. As director of the Radio Astronomy Laboratory from 1971 to 1996, he was the main force behind the BIMA array operated jointly by UC Berkeley and the universities of Illinois and Maryland. Completed in 1996, it consists of 10 six-meter radio dishes tuned to millimeter wavelengths suitable for studying cool matter in the universe.

Welch stepped down in 1996 to pursue his own research full time, recently embarking on one of the most ambitious SETI projects to date - construction of a $25 million array of 500-1,000 radio telescopes dedicated in part to searching for intelligent signals from space.

He earned his BS from Stanford University and his PhD from UC Berkeley. Welch is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and recently received one of UC Berkeley's highest awards, the Berkeley Citation.

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