Sunday, January 14, 2007

Maxine Singer awarded 2007 NAS Public Welfare Medal

The 2007 National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal has been awarded to biochemist-molecular biologist Maxine Singer.

Singer is a pioneer of molecular biology and an accomplished leader in science policy. She has championed the cause of women and minorities in science by fostering equal access to education and career opportunities, and has worked tirelessly to improve science education.

As president of the Carnegie Institution from 1988 to 2002, Singer reinforced the institution's position of preeminence among U.S. scientific organizations through innovative programs and initiatives. Highlights of her tenure include spearheading the Magellan Project, which culminated in the construction of the twin Magellan telescopes at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in La Serena, Chile, and the development of the Department of Global Ecology, the institution's first new department in decades.

While at Carnegie, Singer's personal concern for education in the nation's capital led her to establish the Carnegie Academy for Science Education (CASE), a program for D.C. K-12 teachers. CASE works to increase teachers' knowledge of science, while providing them with new methods to teach their students about science. In 1989, she introduced Carnegie's "First Light" project, an imaginative Saturday science school for D.C. public school students. Both programs continue to this day.
According to her profile at the Carnegie Institution website:
Singer's research contributions have ranged over several areas of biochemistry and molecular biology, including chromatin structure, the structure and evolution of defective viruses, and enzymes that work on DNA and its complementary molecule, RNA. Around 1960 she collaborated intensely with her NIH colleague Marshall Nirenberg in the elucidation of the genetic code. In recent years, her foremost contributions have been in studies of a large family of repeated DNA sequences called LINES—sequences interspersed many times in mammalian DNA. She and her co-workers have been especially interested in the LINE-1 sequence, which is repeated thousands of times in human DNA. LINE-1, she early concluded, is capable of insert into new places on chromosomal DNA, and researchers elsewhere later found that LINE-1 insertions into a gene whose product is required for blood clotting are associated with cases of hemophilia. Believing that the mechanism of LINE-1 transposition might have broad significance for understanding genetic diseases, Singer and colleagues have concentrated their experiments on learning how LINE-1 elements move.

For more information:
Profile at Women in Chemstry
Entry in the American Association for Clinical Chemistry Hall of Fame
Publications in the PubMed database