University of Rochester

Eisenberg, Anderson elected to National Academy of Sciences

April 30, 2010

Richard Eisenberg, the Tracy H. Harris Professor of Chemistry at the University of Rochester, and Porter Anderson, a professor emeritus of pediatrics at the Medical Center, have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors that can be accorded to a scientist.

This year, 72 new members and 18 foreign associates were inducted into the organization, bringing the total membership to 2,097 active members and 409 foreign associates. The scientists that comprise the body, picked for their research achievements, are responsible for advising the federal government on science and technology.

Eisenberg's research has focused on inorganic and organometallic chemistry, photochemistry, and catalysis. He is a specialist in the chemistry of converting light into chemical energy. These interests have paved the way for his current work developing a system that could lead to more efficient and environmentally friendly production of hydrogen fuel from water. Current hydrogen production that is based on natural gas is not able on a long-term basis to satisfy the demand for hydrogen as a major fuel, and it produces carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Eisenberg's studies focus on an artificial version of photosynthesis – the process by which plants use the sun's energy – to produce hydrogen directly from water.

Eisenberg received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Columbia University. In 1973, he joined the faculty of the University of Rochester and was chair of the Department of Chemistry from 1991 to 1994. In an upcoming ceremony on May 15, he will receive the University of Rochester's Lifetime Achievement Award in Graduate Education. To date, he has advised 37 graduate students through their doctorates and mentored 46 postdoctoral fellows. He has mentored numerous undergraduate researchers as well.

Eisenberg is the Editor-in-Chief of Inorganic Chemistry, the leading journal in its field. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society, as well as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Anderson, a senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School, was on the University of Rochester Medical Center faculty from 1977 to 1994. He is one of three Medical Center scientists who developed the Haemophilus influenza b (Hib) vaccine, which has virtually eradicated a leading cause of meningitis in preschoolers. The three Rochester pediatric researchers—the late David Smith, M.D. (M'58), Richard Insel, M.D., and Anderson—were among the first to develop and test a conjugate vaccine, a method to make a vaccine more effective by linking it to a protein that incites a more powerful immune system response to fight an infection.

The team first used the technology to tackle bacteria known as Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib). Smith eventually founded a company called Praxis to develop a vaccine. The Hib vaccine was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration in 1990, then the first vaccine in 20 years to be recommended by the FDA for universal use in children. It has virtually wiped out infection by Hib bacteria, which was a leading cause of meningitis in children under the age of 5. Another vaccine based on the technology, Prevnar, was introduced in 2000. It prevents invasive infections by pneumococcal bacteria, which cause meningitis, ear infections, pneumonia, and other diseases.

Anderson and Smith received the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 1996.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation that calls on the academy to be an official advisor to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.