LAWRENCE — Joe Lutkenhaus, the University Distinguished Professor of Microbiology, Molecular Genetics and Immunology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Lutkenhaus was one of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 15 countries who were elected to the academy in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.
“I was obviously pleasantly surprised and perhaps a bit in shock considering how prestigious the academy is,” Lutkenhaus said.
Lutkenhaus said part of his shocked reaction was that he wasn't even aware he had been nominated.
Established by an Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the National Academy of Science is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. Scientists are elected by their peers to membership in the academy for outstanding contributions to research. The academy is committed to furthering science in America, and its members are active contributors to the international scientific community.
“Being a member of the academy had never been a goal of mine, but I am obviously thrilled,” he said.
Lutkenhaus is considered one of the country's foremost bacterial cell researchers, and in 1991, he gained worldwide attention for his discovery that FtsZ, a protein in all bacterial cells, forms a ring in the middle of a cell when it is preparing to divide. In 2012, he was named one of three winners of the 2012 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize by Columbia University in recognition of his work to understand the intricate, dynamic and three-dimensional organization of bacterial cells.
Lutkenhaus, who has been a faculty member at KU Medical Center since 1981, is grateful for the support he has had at KU.
“KU Medical Center has given me the opportunity to conduct my research,” he says. “I am also thankful to all my students and postdocs over the years who have been responsible for helping with my work.”