James Haber receives top scientific honor

Biologist is elected to the National Academy of Sciences

James HaberBiologist James E. Haber was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for his excellence in original scientific research. Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States. Haber will be inducted into the academy next April during its 148th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Haber, the Abraham and Etta Goodman Chair of Biology and director of the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, was elected along with 71 others, bringing the number of Brandeis faculty elected to the NAS to 11, including five emeritus members. Additionally, two faculty are members of the Institute of Medicine, one of the four organizations comprising the academies. There are currently just over 2,000 active NAS members.  Among the NAS's renowned members are Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, and Alexander Graham Bell. Over 180 living academy members have won Nobel Prizes.

“I am thrilled to be elected to the academy and to be associated with so many scientists whose research I so greatly admire,” said Haber.  “It is really a testimony to the wonderful group of students, post-docs and technicians with whom I have worked and who have been so dedicated and creative in solving the problems we have been investigating.”

Haber is one of today’s preeminent biologists researching how breaks in the DNA double helix are repaired and what effects they have on the cell. Using budding yeast as the model organism, Haber and his lab study double strand breaks, (DSBs), which can lead to chromosome instability and can be lethal if not repaired. DSBs may result from irradiation or mutagenic chemicals, or they may arise during DNA replication. Interest in DSBs also stems from the fact that DSBs sometimes result in aberrations such as chromosomal rearrangements, which are associated with the development of cancers in mammals.

“Jim Haber's pioneering work on how breaks in the DNA double helix are repaired has strengthened Brandeis's leadership in biological research," said Marty Krauss, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "Professor Haber's accomplishments as a teacher, scholar and researcher are a source of great pride for the entire Brandeis community and I am thrilled he is being recognized with this honor."

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furthering science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.  Established in 1863, the National Academy of Sciences has served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.

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