Biologist Eric Selker elected to National Academy of Sciences

Eric Selker

EUGENE, Ore. -- (May 2, 2012) -- University of Oregon biologist Eric U. Selker, a member of the Institute of Molecular Biology, is among 84 newly elected members of the National Academy of Sciences. Another 21 foreign associates from 15 countries also were selected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States. "I feel really honored," Selker said. "It means a lot to me, because a lot of my real heroes are in the Academy."

Selker joined the UO faculty in 1985. He studies how eukaryotic genomes function. His current research focuses on gene silencing and concentrates on mechanisms involving DNA methylation and special states of chromatin. Methylation is essential for normal growth and development in plants and animals; abnormal methylation is associated with diseases such as cancer. The research in his UO lab primarily uses the easy-to-manipulate fungus Neurospora crassa.

Just a year ago, Selker was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's most prestigious honorary societies and a leading center for independent policy research. Grants from the National Institutes of Health support much of Selker's research.

"This is well deserved recognition for Eric Selker and his remarkable research," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation at the UO. "Basic research is the essential building block for advancements that lead to breakthroughs in medicine that ultimately advance human health. Professor Selker's election to the National Academy shines yet another light on the quality of University of Oregon research."

Selker's newest findings appeared online April 15 in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. An accompanying commentary noted that the findings mirror shifts in DNA methylation seen in human cancer cells and are important for understanding genomic instability.

Selker, who earned his doctorate from Stanford University in 1981, is the eighth active scientist from the UO holding membership in the NAS. The 2012 election brings the total number of active academy members to 2,152 and the total number of foreign associates to 430. Foreign associates are non-voting members of the Academy, with citizenship outside the United States.

UO chemist Geraldine "Geri" Richmond was elected into NAS membership in 2011. Another six active NAS members from the UO, with field and year of election, are Terrell Hill, biophysics and computational biology, 1965; Franklin Stahl, genetics, 1976; Peter von Hippel, biochemistry, 1978; Michael Posner, psychological and cognitive sciences, 1981; John Schellman, biophysics and computational biology, 1982; and Brian Matthews, biophysics and computational biology, 1986.

About the University of Oregon
The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contacts: Jim Barlow, director of science and research communications, 541-346-3481, ; National Academy of Sciences, Office of News and Public Information, 202-334-2138,

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