Science Board, External Professor
Evan Pugh Professor; Distinguished Visiting Professor, Penn State University; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences
Nina Fedoroff did her undergraduate work at Syracuse University, graduating summa cum laude with a dual major in biology and chemistry. She attended the Rockefeller University, where she earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in 1972. Both her undergraduate research at Syracuse University and her graduate research on RNA bacteriophage at The Rockefeller University were supported by grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation. Following graduation from The Rockefeller University, she joined the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and carried out research on nuclear RNA.
In 1974 Fedoroff received fellowships from the Damon Runyan-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fund and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for postdoctoral work, first at UCLA and then in the Department of Embryology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Baltimore. Working in the laboratory of Donald Brown, Fedoroff pioneered in DNA sequencing, determining the nucleotide sequence of the first complete gene. In 1978, Fedoroff became a staff member of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and a faculty member in the Biology Department at Johns Hopkins University. Her research focus changed to the molecular characterization of maize transposable elements. The isolation of the maize transposons, discovered genetically by Barbara McClintock in the 1940s, was achieved in the early 1980s. In subsequent years, Fedoroff’s lab showed that the maize transposons were active in a variety of other plants, developed transposon tagging systems, and studied the epigenetic regulation of transposon activity.
In 1995 Fedoroff joined the faculty of the Pennsylvania State University as Willaman Professor of Life Sciences. From 1995 to 2002, she served as the Director of the Biotechnology Institute and she organized and served as the first Director of the Life Sciences Consortium (now the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences), a seven-college organization devoted to the promotion of multidisciplinary research and teaching in the life sciences. In 2002, Fedoroff was named an Evan Pugh Professor of the Pennsylvania State University and in 2003 she became a member of the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute. Fedoroff’s current work is directed at understanding the genetic organization and molecular dynamics of plant stress and hormone responses and the molecular basis of epigenetic regulation of gene activity. Fedoroff has published two books and numerous papers in scientific journals.
Fedoroff has served on the editorial boards of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Gene, Plant Journal and Perspectives in Biology and Medicine and has chaired the NAS Council’s Publications Committee. She served on the board of the International Science Foundation and the International Scientific Advisory Board of the Englehardt Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow and the Science Steering Committee of the Santa Fe Institute. She has been a member of the Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the Board of Directors of the Genetics Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Board of Trustees of BIOSIS, the Board of Directors of the Sigma-Aldrich Corporation and the National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation.
Fedoroff received the University of Chicago’s Howard Taylor Ricketts Award in 1990, the New York Academy of Sciences’ Outstanding Contemporary Woman Scientist award in 1992, the Sigma Xi’s McGovern Science and Society Medal in 1997, Syracuse University’s Arents Pioneer Medal in 2003 and the 2010 Leadership in Public Service Award of the American Society of Plant Biology. She is a member the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology, the International Academy of Food Science and Technology and the National Academy of Sciences. She is a 2006 National Medal of Science laureate. She received an honorary doctorate from the Rockefeller University in 2008.
Fedoroff served as the Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State and to the Administrator of the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington DC from 2007 to 2010. She is currently President-Elect of the AAAS and Distinguished Visiting Professor of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia.