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Fall 2006 Vol. 6 No. 3

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Photo by Donna Coveney, Massachusetts Institute of Technology News Office MIT's Charles Vest Nominated to Be Next NAE President

The National Academy of Engineering's 2007 nominating committee has unanimously recommended Charles M. Vest, president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to stand as the sole candidate to be the next president of the Academy. Voting by NAE members will take place in March 2007 for a six-year term to begin on July 1, 2007.

"I could not be more pleased that Chuck Vest has accepted the nomination for the NAE presidency," said NAE Chair Craig Barrett, who is also chairman of the board of Intel Corp. "Chuck's broad experience and leadership at the national level will benefit the NAE greatly and allow it to continue the distinguished service to the nation that has been a hallmark of Bill Wulf's presidency."

If elected, Vest will succeed Wm. A. Wulf, whose second term as NAE president ends on June 30. Ineligible to run for a third term under the NAE bylaws, Wulf will return to the University of Virginia as a Chaired University Professor.

Vest, age 65, served as MIT's president from 1990 through 2004. During that time, he worked to strengthen federal-university-industry relations and undertook a number of initiatives to bring education and research issues to broader public attention. Vest placed special emphasis on enhancing science and engineering in undergraduate education. While stressing the importance of racial and cultural diversity among faculty and students at MIT, Vest also worked to build a stronger international dimension to the university's programs.

Vest earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University in 1963. He received both his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan in 1964 and 1967, respectively, where he later held the positions of dean of engineering, provost, and vice president for academic affairs. He is the recipient of 10 honorary doctoral degrees.

Vest was elected to the NAE in 1993 "for technical and educational contributions to holographic interferometry and leadership as an educator," and he currently serves on the NAE Council. Among Vest's career honors is NAE's Arthur M. Bueche Award in 2000 "for his outstanding university leadership, commitment, and effectiveness in helping mold government policy in support of research, and forging linkages between academia and industry." Vest has served on numerous National Academies studies, most recently on the highly cited Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, which highlights the roles of science and engineering in U.S. economic growth and competitiveness.   -- Randy Atkins

Academies Recognize Excellent Communication on Evolution, Human History, and Climate Change

Winners of the 2006 National Academies Communication Awards, photo by Paul Kennedy

The top prizes from the National Academies for excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering, and medicine to the general public during 2005 go to works about climate change, evolution, and human history. Now in its fourth year, the National Academies Communication Awards program presents $20,000 prizes to winners in three categories -- book, newspaper/magazine/Internet, and radio/TV. The 2006 book winner is author Charles Mann for 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. The judges called his work an engaging and thought-provoking rediscovery of the early human history in the Americas. Other winners are writer Elizabeth Kolbert of The New Yorker, for her authoritative treatment of the science and politics of global climate change in the three-part series "The Climate of Man." And Nic Young, Anna Thomson, and Bill Locke won for the documentary "Ape to Man" -- an accurate and entertaining overview of human evolution made accessible to broad audiences.

"It is an honor to recognize these individuals and the important role they play in increasing the public's understanding of science, engineering, and medicine," said NAS President Ralph Cicerone. "We hope that our awards inspire many others to report clearly and creatively about the world we live in."

The winners were honored in November at "Smart Prosthetics: Exploring Assistive Devices for the Body and Mind," a conference sponsored by the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative. Top researchers from different fields attended this conference to discuss advances in prosthetics and other assistive devices, and to compete for approximately $1 million in research seed grants for interdisciplinary collaborative projects. The event took place at the Academies' Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, Calif.
  -- Maureen O'Leary

L'Oréal Honors Women in Science


L'Oréal USA Fellowships for Women in Science -- a national awards program that recognizes American women at the start of their scientific careers -- is now selecting its 2007 class of outstanding postdoctoral researchers. Each year the U.S. subsidiary of the international cosmetic maker recognizes and rewards five researchers who are pursuing careers in science, math, engineering, and computer sciences; this year marks the first that $40,000 grants will be given, double the amount previously awarded.

Launched in 2003 as the U.S. companion to the UNESCO- L'Oréal International Fellowships program, L'Oréal USA's fellowship program aims to raise the awareness of the contributions of women to science, as well as to identify exceptional female researchers who can serve as role models for young science students. The fellowship is open only to women postdoctoral researchers who are either U.S.-born, naturalized citizens, or permanent residents living in the United States. A jury of eight scientists, led by NAS President Ralph Cicerone, selects the five winners based on research projects proposed by applicants and according to stringent eligibility criteria.

"To continue to succeed in science and technology, our nation must nurture the potential of all the bright young minds at work in all fields of science," said Cicerone. "L'Oréal USA's fellowships offer support for some extraordinary talents and will help women entering science to continue and advance."
  -- William Skane

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Copyright 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences