Stormer Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Three Faculty Members Are Elected to the Prestigious National Academy of Sciences
The Record, Vol. 24, No. 22
By Hannah Fairfield

Three members of the Columbia faculty were elected to the National Academy of Sciences on April 27. Arthur Karlin, Higgins Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and David Walker, professor of geological sciences, were elected with 58 other new members. Horst Stormer, the professor of physics and applied physics who won a Nobel Prize in October, was elected as one of 15 foreign associates.

Arthur Karlin, the director of the Center for Molecular Recognition at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, has focused his research on the nervous system. He is best known for his pioneering studies on the molecular properties of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, a chemical that communicates signals along nerve cells. Early in his career, Karlin discovered that acetylcholine had chemical characteristics of a protein. In later years, he and his collaborators determined the subunit arrangement of the receptor and the structures of its binding sites, cation-conducting channel and gate. This work has been widely applied by others to many membrane receptors, channels and transport proteins.

David Walker, a petrologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, became interested in experimental petrology when the first lunar rock samples were available for study in 1970. His subsequent research on magmatic processes and the differentiation of Earth's core, mantle and crust has led to an understanding of how Earth and the other terrestrial planets have evolved with time. In his lab experiments he has been able to simulate the high pressure and high temperature conditions of the Earth's lower mantle, making it possible to evaluate processes early in Earth's history, the fate of tectonic plates that have been subducted and earthquake mechanisms at great depths.

Horst Stormer, a native of Germany, shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of bizarre motions of electrons in thin layers of semiconductors. Stormer was also able to restate the theoretic explanation of the motion in a simple equation. The discovery of this electron motion, called the fractal quantum Hall effect, is very valuable in the technology sector. It may help to create faster switching speeds in electronic devices such as computer chips, which may be used to construct higher density computer memories than is now possible. The three new members bring Columbia's total to 28 current members of the Academy of Sciences


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