Road Less Traveled Leads to National Academy of Sciences for Biochemist Brenda L. Bass, Ph.D.

April 29, 2014 – Distinguished professor of biochemistry Brenda L. Bass, Ph.D., who has devoted her career to understanding mysterious double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) molecules, received one of the highest honors in science today when she was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

Bass, also H.A. and Edna Benning Endowed Chair in Biochemistry at the University of Utah School of Medicine, is among 84 U.S. scientist-scholars and 21 foreign associates from 15 countries elected by the Academy, headquartered in Washington, D.C. Her election brings to at least 40 the number of current and former University of Utah researchers who’ve been elected to one of the three National Academies, which also include the National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. The National Academies recognize achievements in their fields and, with National Research Council, advises the federal government and other organizations about science, engineering and health policy.

Bass had no idea of her election until she started receiving congratulatory emails and texts this morning from people who heard she’d received the honor. “I’m overwhelmed, as anyone who gets in the National Academy of Sciences probably is,” she says. “I’m really excited there are people who respect my science enough to have elected me.” She thanked the students, scientists and staff who’ve worked in her lab since she joined the University faculty in 1989 as well as colleagues who supported her election.

Bass’ research career has been one of following the road less traveled. dsRNA is an elusive molecule whose biological roles are not fully understood. The human body makes dsRNAs that serve a number of functions, but viruses also make the molecules, which potentially can cause problems if the body gets confused about when to mount an immune response to fight infections.

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