UMC Links

National Academy Elects Two U Scientists

April 28, 2009 – University of Utah biologist Baldomero “Toto” Olivera and chemist Dale Poulter were elected Monday to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

The honors come 2½ years after Olivera was elected to the Institute of Medicine. That institute, the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering all are part of a parent group known as the National Academies.

Olivera is at least the third University of Utah researcher elected to membership in two of the National Academies. He and Poulter bring to at least 35 the number of University of Utah faculty members elected to one of the National Academies during some point in their careers.

Both were traveling Monday and couldn’t be reached for comment on the honors.

But physicist Pierre Sokolsky, dean of the University of Utah College of Science, was happy to praise two of his faculty members and their new honors.

“It’s just another example of the excellence that the College of Science embodies,” Sokolsky says. “Both Toto and Dale are absolutely outstanding scientists, and this is recognition from peers of the highest quality for a lifetime of work. It’s another indication that not only is the college a hidden jewel, but that jewel is beginning to be noticed by people across the country in the sciences.”

Poulter studies what is known as the “isoprene biosynthetic pathway,” which all living organisms use to produce essential compounds to survive. Olivera studies medicinal uses of toxins from venomous sea-dwelling cone snails.

The two University of Utah professors were among 72 new members and 18 foreign associates elected to the academy Monday during the business session of its 146th annual meeting. That brings the total number of active members to 2,150 and the total of non-voting foreign associates to 404.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

Among the National Academy of Sciences’ renowned members are Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, and Alexander Graham Bell. More than 180 living academy members have won Nobel Prizes, including University of Utah geneticist Mario Capecchi.

University of Utah Faculty in the National Academies

Below are lists of other present or former University of Utah faculty elected to one or more of the National Academies. Note that some were elected before or after their tenure at the university:

  • National Academy of Sciences: Anthropologist James O’Connell; geneticist Mario Capecchi; chemist Peter Stang; geologist-geochemist Thure Cerling; anthropologist Henry Harpending; anthropologist Kristen Hawkes; late anthropologist Jesse D. Jennings; chemist Cheves Walling; biochemist Sidney Velick; biologist John R. Roth; chemist Josef Michl; geneticist Ray White; late anthropologist Julian Steward; anthropologist Jeremy Sabloff; late chemist Henry Eyring; late pharmacologist Louis Goodman; biologist Baldomero “Toto” Olivera; and chemist Dale Poulter.
  • National Academy of Engineering: the late R. Peter King; Adel Sarofim; Sung Wan Kim; Gerald Stringfellow; Donald Dahlstrom; the late George Hill; Jan D. Miller; Milton E. Wadsworth; the late Thomas G. Stockham; John Herbst; Stephen C. Jacobsen, the late Willem J. Kolff; Anil Virkar; and William A. Hustrulid.
  • Institute of Medicine: Jacobsen and Kim (both also are members of the National Academy of Engineering), Olivera (now also a member of the National Academy of Sciences), obstetrician-gynecologist Eli Adashi and medical informatics professors Homer R. Warner and Paul D. Clayton.

For the full list of newly elected members, visit: