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Thoru Pederson elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

UMass Medical School Communications

April 28, 2020
Thoru Pederson, PhD

UMass Medical School cell biologist Thoru Pederson, PhD, has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Class of 2020. Comprising artists, scholars, scientists and leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors, the academy recognizes excellence and expertise among its membership, representing innovative thinkers in every field and profession.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by one's guild—in my case the profession of cell biology. But that this venerable institution is one of both the arts and the sciences adds so much to my sense of profound privilege in having been elected,” said Dr. Pederson, the Vitold Arnett Professor of Cell Biology, associate vice chancellor for research and professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology.

Pederson received his PhD in zoology from Syracuse University and was a postdoctoral fellow at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. A longtime scientist at the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Sciences, he served as the foundation’s president from 1985 until its merger with the University of Massachusetts in 1997.

Pederson’s election to the American Academy recognizes his career of research on the functional organization of the cell nucleus, including specific associations between RNAs and proteins to form machines that underlie gene readout. A signature of his work has been the concerted deployment of in vitro studies together with the development of innovative methods to track these RNA-protein machines and RNA-RNA complexes within the nucleus of living cells. He has also made transformative discoveries about the nucleolus, a specific intranuclear body. Most recently Pederson and collaborators have designed CRISPR-based methods to probe the fine-scale movements of specific genomic loci.

The author of more than 300 scientific articles, Pederson has earned international stature as a leader in his field of research. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Leukemia Society of America Scholar Award; the Hudson Hoagland Award; and the Wilhelm Bernhard Medal in recognition of his research on the cell nucleus. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Microbiology

Nominators Bruce Alberts, PhD, professor emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, and UMMS Nobel Laureate Craig Mello, PhD, noted that, in addition to his research contributions, Pederson is also widely admired as a skillful ambassador of basic biomedical science and as an exceptionally able writer both for peers and general audiences.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences honors excellence and leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and work together to cultivate every art and science.

“The news of my election brought back a vivid memory of when the president of the academy at the time brought me to a lecture there,” Pederson wrote in his letter of acceptance, a society tradition. “At a time when I was primarily consumed by my lab bench, I was enthralled to witness a learned institution where the sciences and arts combine.”

Pederson hopes to gather with fellow members of the Academy’s Class of 2020 at its induction ceremony, currently scheduled for October.

He joins these UMMS faculty previously elected to the academy:

  • Victor R. Ambros, PhD, the Silverman Chair in Natural Sciences and professor of molecular medicine;
  • Michael R. Green, MD, PhD, the Lambi and Sarah Adams Chair in Genetic Research, chair and professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology, professor of molecular medicine, director of the UMass Medical School Cancer Center, and co-director of the Li Weibo Institute for Rare Diseases Research;
  • Allan Jacobson, PhD, the Gerald L. Haidak, MD, and Zelda S. Haidak Professor of Cell Biology, and chair and professor of microbiology & physiological systems; and
  • Craig C. Mello, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine, distinguished professor of RNA therapeutics and professor of molecular medicine.

Related stories on UMassMedNow:
Thoru Pederson named fellow of the American Society for Cell Biology
Building a genomic GPS with CRISPR