Harris Lewin has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), it was announced today. Lewin, an emeritus faculty member in the Department of Animal Sciences and founding director of the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), was recognized for research he conducted during his 27 years at the University of Illinois. He is now vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Davis, where he earned his doctorate in 1984.
Lewin joins an august body of approximately 2,200 members and 420 foreign associates. Members are elected to the NAS in recognition of their distinguished research achievements. Election to the National Academy is one of the highest professional honors a scientist can receive.
“As a faculty colleague since his arrival on the Illinois campus 27 years ago I am absolutely delighted that Harris has been selected for this recognition,” said Robert Easter, president-designate of the University of Illinois. “It is a wonderful honor for him and for the University of Illinois.”
Lewin is widely known for his research in comparative mammalian genomics and immunogenetics.
“Harris has made fundamental contributions to biology,” says Gene Robinson, professor of entomology, director of the IGB and also an NAS member, “and he always will be remembered on this campus for his visionary leadership in helping to establish and then direct the IGB.”
“Harris’s involvement in sequencing both the bovine and swine genomes has placed the University of Illinois in a unique position to be an international leader in functional genomics of these major food-producing animals,” says Neal Merchen, head of the Department of Animal Sciences.
Lewin’s research has advanced the understanding of mammalian chromosome evolution. He led research that showed that different parts of the genome have different evolutionary histories and that areas of the chromosome more prone to breakage are a rich source of genetic variation.
The IGB, which has made the University of Illinois a leader in interdisciplinary research in genomics, would not exist without Lewin’s vision and energy. Lewin served as the IGB director for eight years, from its founding until last year.
“The creation of the IGB has been a major factor in making the University of Illinois a leading institution in 21st century biology, and Harris was instrumental in that,” says Robinson.
In 2010 Lewin also received the Wolf Award (described by some as the Nobel Prize in Agriculture) for his bovine leukemia work. Lewin also is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.