Newswise — The Genetics Society of America (GSA) is pleased to announce the recipients of its five awards for distinguished service in the field of genetics. These awards represent sustained activity and contributions by members of the genetics community. The individuals who receive these awards were nominated and selected by their peers in recognition of the exceptional value of their work to promote further understanding within the field of genetics.

“The Genetics Society of America awards shine a spotlight on the scientific achievements and contributions of our members. The 2011 awards illustrate both the power of research in genetically manipulable organisms to solve fundamental problems and our members’ commitment to mentoring and teaching at all levels,” said GSA President Dr. R. Scott Hawley.

The recipients of these awards represent several of the model organism research communities within GSA including Saccharomyces cerevisae (yeast), Drosophila (fruit fly), C. elegans (the roundworm), and Arabidopsis thaliana (the flowering mustard weed). The awards and their recipients are listed below:

• Recipient: James E. Haber, PhD, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA.Award: Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal for lifetime contributions in the field of genetics.

This award recognizes the entire corpus of Dr. Haber’s seminal, innovative and critical studies of DNA recombination and repair, especially as they relate to genome instability. Working with budding yeast, S. cerevisae, as a model eukaryote, Dr. Haber’s research has provided the foundation for researchers worldwide who work in the DNA damage response field. In addition to his enormous scientific achievement, this award acknowledges his distinguished record as a scholar and a mentor. Dr. Haber is widely recognized in the genetics field as a superb colleague and teacher, who has many former students and postdoctoral fellows that are leaders in their research fields.

• Recipient: John R. Carlson, PhD, Yale University.Award: Genetics Society of America Medal for outstanding contributions to the field of genetics in the last 15 years.

Dr. Carlson is a pioneer in the chemosensory field and is being recognized for this work with the GSA Medal. Working with Drosophila, he has studied and identified both olfaction and gustatory genes in these insects, resulting in analysis of how these genes work and how the fly encodes chemosensory information. His research in Drosophila olfaction has been extended to Anopheles gambiae, the mosquito which transmits malaria, with the hope of determining how to help people in Africa avoid this disease.

• Recipient: Abby F. Dernburg, PhD, University of California, Berkeley.Award: Edward Novitski Prize for exhibiting an extraordinary level of creativity and intellectual ingenuity in solving a significant problem in genetics.

Dr. Dernberg’s creative and imaginative studies of chromosome behavior during meiosis have won her the honor of this award. Using the roundworm model organism, C. elegans, she has made gigantic steps in elucidating the mechanisms that guide chromosome pairing in meiosis. Pairing is one of the great unsolved problems in chromosome biology, and reflects a central question for all of science: how does something distinguish self from non-self? In addition to her studies in C. elegans she also made enormous contributions to the study of meiosis in flies and is considered a leader in the field of chromosome biology.

• Recipient: Joseph R. Ecker, PhD, Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA.Award: George W. Beadle Award for outstanding contributions to the community of genetics researchers.

A renowned molecular biologist and plant geneticist, Dr. Ecker is being recognized for the body of work he has developed in studying Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering mustard weed and a model organism. He is a pioneer in understanding the role of ethylene, a gaseous hormone, which regulates plant ripening, pathogen defense and germination. He was a driving force within the multinational Arabidopsis Genome Sequencing Committee, a team that sequenced the Arabidopsis thaliana genome three years ahead of the scheduled 10, and with colleagues has developed new gene scouting techniques. • Recipient: Peter J. Bruns, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (retired), Bethesda, MD.Award: Elizabeth W. Jones Award for Excellence in Education in recognition of a significant and sustained impact on genetics education.

In his more than 40 years as a science educator, Dr. Bruns has fostered links between science researchers and science teachers and their students. First at Cornell University and then as the vice president for grants and special programs for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 2000 to 2010, Dr. Bruns has brought teachers of all levels into contact with researchers through lectures, labs, field trips and other activities to improve their teaching. A creative science educator, Dr. Bruns is being recognized by this award, not only because of the work he has done to strengthen ties between teachers and their students with scientists, but also because this work has promoted increased public understanding of science and how scientists work, and has been valuable in encouraging well-educated and trained young people into the science pipeline.

For more information about each award and for a list of past recipients, please visit the GSA Awards page at

ABOUT THE GENETICS SOCIETY OF AMERICAFounded in 1931, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) is the professional membership organization for geneticists and science educators. Its more than 4,000 members work to advance knowledge in the basic mechanisms of inheritance, from the molecular to the population level. The GSA is dedicated to promoting research in genetics and to facilitating communication among geneticists worldwide through The Genetics Society of America Conferences including the biennial conference on Model Organisms to Human Biology, an interdisciplinary meeting on current and cutting edge topics in genetics research, and annual and biennial meetings that focus on the genetics of particular organisms. GSA publishes GENETICS, the leading journal in the field. For more information about GSA, please visit

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