Published: May 1, 2003


Contact: Sue Nichols, University Relations, (517) 353-8942


EAST LANSING, Mich. - Two Michigan State University faculty members have been elected members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

James Tiedje, University Distinguished Professor of crop and soil sciences and director of the Center for Microbial Ecology, and Michael Thomashow, professor of crop and soil sciences and of microbiology, and member of the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, were among the 72 new members and 18 foreign associates from 11 countries named in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Election to membership in the academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer. Those elected now bring the total number of active members to 1,922, and Michigan State's academy membership to a total of seven.

"It is tremendously exciting to see such fine work honored," said MSU Interim President and Provost Lou Anna K. Simon. "Both of these faculty members have made significant scientific achievements against a backdrop of public service and focus on solving cutting-edge problems in their fields. Their work has advanced knowledge and transformed lives on campus and throughout the world. This honor brings distinction to each of them, their academic units and to Michigan State University."

The election was Tuesday at the 140th annual meeting of the Academy.

Tiedje is internationally recognized for research on understanding the ecology, physiology and biochemistry of microbial processes important in nature and of value to industry, especially to find ways to destroy hazardous wastes and to use DNA-based technologies to explore the unknown microbial world.

Thomashow is internationally recognized for his work on the molecular mechanisms of cold acclimation in plants. His research on environmental stress tolerance in plants to extreme temperature holds promise to improve not only cold tolerance of plants but also tolerance to other stressors such as salt and drought. In 2001 he was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Award. Both Tiedje and Thomashow play leadership roles in the NASA Center for Genomic and Evolutionary Studies on Microbial Life at Low Temperatures. Tiedje is associate director and Thomashow is director of the center, which explores how the genetic mechanisms in microscopic forms of life, known as microbes, have evolved that allow them to inhabit cold inhospitable environments, a common feature of space, planets and interstellar objects.

Tiedje received his doctorate in soil microbiology and biochemistry from Cornell University. Thomashow received his doctorate in microbiology from the University of California-Los Angeles.

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, signed by Abraham Lincoln, which calls on the Academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

Thomashow and Tiedje join five other living MSU faculty members who have been elected to the academy: Martin Bukovac, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of horticulture; James Dye, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of chemistry; Hans Kende, University Distinguished Professor in the DOE Plant Research Laboratory; Jan Zeevaart, University Distinguished Professor in the DOE Plant Research Laboratory; and Richard Witter, a veterinary medical officer with the USDA'S Agricultural Research Service and adjunct professor in veterinary medicine.

Additional information about the institution is available on the Internet at A full directory of NAS members can be found online at

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Photos by Daymon J. Hartley