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Thursday, May 9, 2002
Phillip G. Torrez (510) 987-9205

Five UC Faculty Awarded National Medals of Science

President Bush today (Thursday, May 9) named five University of California faculty recipients of the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest award for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research.

The faculty are Francisco J. Ayala of UC Irvine, Marvin L. Cohen of UC Berkeley, Charles D. Keeling of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Gabor A. Somorjai of UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Harold E. Varmus of UC San Francisco.

"The entire University of California community takes enormous pride in the National Medals of Science that have been awarded to members of the UC faculty this year," said UC President Richard C. Atkinson. "These awards are a testament not only to the extraordinary scientific accomplishments of these individuals, but to the tremendous impact the University of California has on our state and nation.

"UC faculty members have received more than 10 percent of the National Medals of Science awarded over the program's history, but this indeed has been a banner year. The range of disciplines represented among the recipients is an indication of the strength of UC's research programs across the entire range of society’s needs."

The five UC researchers were among 14 scientists and one engineer who were awarded National Medals of Science for 2001. They will be presented their medals at a White House ceremony in the near future.

With today's honorees, 48 researchers affiliated with the University of California and three national laboratories UC manages for the federal government have received Medals of Science since Congress created the award in 1959. It marks the second time that five medals in one year were awarded to UC faculty; the first occurred in 1983.

"Each one of these individuals has helped advance our country's place as a leader in discovery, creativity and technology," President Bush said in making the announcement in Washington. "Their contributions have touched all of our lives and will continue to do so."

The White House noted that six of the honorees have made "lasting and continuing contributions to a burgeoning list of discoveries and technology breakthroughs in the biological sciences" and four have pioneered studies of genetics, "a rapidly expanding area of research which has been bolstered by their discoveries."

Ayala, awarded a Medal of Science in biological science, "revolutionized molecular biology in the study of the origins of species," according to the White House announcement. Ayala, 68, the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, has been at UC Irvine since 1987.

Cohen and Keeling were honored in physical sciences. Cohen, 67, a UC faculty member since 1964, has "had a major impact on semiconductor technology through his work in materials science," while Keeling, 74, affiliated with Scripps since 1956, has "pioneered studies on the impact of the carbon cycle to changes in climate, collecting some of the most important data in the study of global climate change."

Somorjai, 67, a chemistry honoree who joined the Berkeley faculty in 1964, was honored "as the world's leading authority in the development of modern surface science, having established the molecular foundation of many surface-based technologies."

Varmus, 61, who is president of Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, was cited for his discovery with UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop that "normal human and animal cells contain genes capable of becoming cancer genes,which led to an aggressive and successful search for genetic origins of cancer by the scientific community."

Varmus and Bishop shared the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1989 for their research at UCSF. Varmus, appointed a professor in 1979, left UCSF in 1993 to serve as director of the National Institutes of Health. He retains his faculty appointment in UCSF's department of microbiology and immunology.

All five of the researchers are members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Cohen and Somorjai are University Professors, the highest honor that can bestowed on UC faulty.

The National Science Foundation administers the National Medal of Science for the White House. The 2001 awards bring to 401 the total number of science medals awarded since their inception.

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To read the official announcement of the 2001 National Medals of Science, please go to:

For more information on National Medals of Science, please see:

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