For Release: May 1, 2007
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National Academy of Sciences Taps Dartmouth Geneticist Victor Ambros

Victor Ambros, PhD
Victor Ambros, PhD

HANOVER, NH—A Dartmouth Medical School geneticist recognized for his groundbreaking studies of gene regulation has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, considered one of the country's highest honors for scientists.

Victor Ambros, PhD, professor of genetics, was among 72 new members elected May 1 (during the Academy's annual meeting) for their "distinguished and continuing achievements in original research."

Ambros discovered a tiny new RNA molecule, surprising in its ultra small size and unconventional activity. Today these microRNAs are recognized to be an abundant and varied class that play critical roles in the regulatory circuitry of the genome.

In 1993 Ambros and his team, which also included Rosalind C. Lee, a research associate at DMS, reported the first small regulatory RNA (ribonucleic acid) that they identified in their genetic studes of the development of the microscopic roundworm C. elegans. Since then, Ambros and others have documented a panoply of genes for diverse microRNAs.

Unlike their larger, better known messenger RNA relatives, microRNAs do not code for proteins. Ambros' discovery and subsequent research contributions have furthered understanding how non-coding RNAs function for the expression of genetic information. The potential of these short nucleotide chains in regulating animal development and behavior is far reaching.

The AAAS hailed these small RNAs the 2002 breakthrough of the year and awarded Ambros and Lee, along with two other research teams, the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize for their research, published in the journal Science.

In 2005, Ambros shared the 2005 Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research, for "pioneering achievements in the discovery of gene silencing by double-stranded RNA."

Ambros, a local native, was born at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital and raised in Hartland, where he went to a four-room schoolhouse, then to Woodstock High School. A graduate of MIT, he received a bachelor's degree in 1975 and doctorate in 1979. He joined the Harvard faculty in 1984 and moved to Dartmouth in 1992.

The new Academy members also include a Dartmouth alumnus, Stephen W. Pacala, Frederick D. Petrie Professor, department of ecology and evolutionary biology, Princeton University. Pacala obtained a B.A. from Dartmouth in 1978 and worked both as a research assistant and a teaching assistant during his undergraduate years. He obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1982 and was on the faculty of the University of Connecticut before joining the Princeton faculty in 1992. Pacala's primary research interests are in the processes that govern ecological communities, the interplay between community and ecosystem-level processes, and the interactions between the global biosphere and climate. He is the director of the Princeton Environmental Institute and co-director of Princeton's Carbon Mitigation Initiative.

"The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to furthering science and its use for the general welfare," according to the Academy. "It was established in 1863... to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology."

Those elected this year bring the total active members to 2,025. In addition, 18 non voting foreign associates were elected, bringing the total to 387.

More information on the Academy and the announcement is available at the National Academies website.


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