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American Academy Honors U Biologist

April 26, 2006 — University of Utah biology Professor Phyllis “Lissy” Coley has been elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, a group started in 1780 by some of America’s founding fathers.

Coley was among 175 new fellows and 20 new foreign honorary members elected to membership, the Cambridge, Mass.-based academy announced earlier this week.

She is an evolutionary and population biologist and ecologist whose research focuses on how tropical trees defend themselves against insects and disease.

Also elected to the academy this week was Mark Keating, a former University of Utah genetics researcher now working at the Harvard Medical School.

Two other University of Utah researchers have been selected for academy membership in recent years: Peter Stang, a distinguished professor of chemistry and dean of the U’s College of Science (2002), and Dale Poulter, a distinguished professor of chemistry (2005).

The new class of academy fellows also includes former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush; Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts; the chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton; actor-director Martin Scorsese; actor Alan Alda; Victor Navasky, publisher emeritus of The Nation; David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker; and Burt Rutan, designer and builder of the Voyager, the first vehicle to circumnavigate the Earth without refueling.

The academy will welcome this year’s new class at its annual induction ceremony on October 7 in Cambridge.

Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members are nominated and elected to the Academy by current members. A broad-based membership, comprised of scholars and practitioners from mathematics, physics, biological sciences, social sciences, humanities and the arts, public affairs and business, gives the academy a unique capacity to conduct a wide range of interdisciplinary studies and public policy research.

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome these outstanding leaders in their fields to the academy,” said academy President Patricia Meyer Spacks. “Fellows are selected through a highly competitive process that recognizes individuals who have made pre-eminent contributions to their disciplines and to society at large.”

Founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots, the academy has elected as fellows and foreign honorary members the finest minds and most influential leaders from each generation, including George Washington and Ben Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 170 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners.

An independent policy research center, the academy undertakes studies of complex and emerging problems. Current academy research focuses on science and global security; social policy; the humanities and culture; and education.

For additional information about the Academy, see:

Previous University of Utah news releases on Coley’s research:

— “A Realistic Way to Save Rainforests” (2003):

— “Save the Rainforest – Eat a Tree” (2004):