A professor of molecular biology from Dallas, Texas, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Dr. Zhijian “James” Chen, who is the current holder of the George L. MacGregor Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UT Southwestern Medical Center, recently commented that he is delighted and honored to be a recipient of this recognition. Dr. Chen said that the credit goes to all of his colleagues who’ve made their own valuable contributions to the output commended by the NAS.
An election to the NAS is deemed one of the most esteemed honors in American science. Dr. Chen’s new NAS membership adds to the now twenty-one UT Southwestern faculty members who have been elected to the academy as well. To fellow NAS member Eric Olson, the originality of Chen’s work on innate immunity “has revolutionized our understanding of fundamental cellular mechanisms of disease.”
This isn’t the first time that the NAS recognizes Chen’s work. In 2012 he was, granted the institution’s award in molecular biology. Along with this new recognition, Chen holds other major awards as well, such as the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research for the Robert A. Welsh Foundation (2005), and the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Science from the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (2007).
Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, the president of UT Southwestern, said that Dr. Chen’s outstanding work on cellular mechanisms and innate immunity have been crucial to understanding how the body responds to viral infections. Dr. Podolsky, along with the rest of UT Southwestern are proud of Dr. Chen’s recognition by his peers. Dr. Chen is currently an affiliate of UT Southwestern’s Center for the Genetics of Host Defense, along with Dr. Bruce Beutler, who co-received a Nobel Prize in or Medicine back in 2011. Dr. Beutler commended Chen for spearheading efforts to understand cellular immunity, and called him an “immunologist and a biochemist of the very top echelon.”
At present, the NAS has elected 84 new associates along with 21 new members from 15 different countries as a highly acclaimed form of recognition for their individual, exceptional contributions and achievements in novel research. Dr. Chen is one of three researchers from the state of Texas, elected to the academy.