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Awards & Honors

Professor of Biology H. Robert Horvitz, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, will receive the 1998 Passano Award for his landmark discovery of mechanisms for cell death that are involved in a variety of human diseases including cancer and neurogen-erative disorders. Dr. Horvitz will deliver the 1998 Passano Foundation Lecture on April 16 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The award carries with it a $40,000 honorarium.

Professor Toyoichi Tanaka, the Otto and Jane Morningstar Professor of Science in the Department of Physics and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering, is the winner of the 38th Toray Science and Technology Prize from the Toray Science Foundation in Japan. The $41,000 prize was established in 1960 to recognize outstanding scientific achievements. The foundation cited Professor Tanaka's discovery of phase transitions of gels -- jello-like materials in which polymer networks can expand, contract, change shapes, and capture and release molecules when triggered by tiny changes in temperature, light, a solvent or other stimuli. Based on his research, various applications of gels such as actuators, controlled release of drugs and chem-icals, sensors, molecular separation and toxic cleaning are being explored.

The American Biophysics Society awarded its Margaret Oakley Dayhoff Memorial Award in Biophysics to Assistant Professor Bonnie A. Berger of the Department of Mathematics. In the area of protein motif recognition, Dr. Berger has made major contributions to the recognition of coiled-coil sequences, introducing the use of pairwise residue correlations. She has also produced a novel, local-rule approach that explains many aspects of virus structure.

The American Geophysical Union's 26 new section officers elected in February to two-year terms beginning July 1 include two MIT faculty members. Associate Professor Thomas Herring, the Kerr-McGee Junior Development Professor of Geophysics, is president-elect of the geodesy section, while Professor of Geochemistry Frederick A. Frey is president-elect of the volcanology, geochemistry and petrology section. Both are affiliated with the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Presidents of the 10 sections plus three union officers comprise the AGU Council, the organization's board of directors.

Postdoctoral associate Igor Kamenkovich has won the 1996-97 Rossby Award for most outstanding thesis submitted to the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate. In his thesis, entitled "Radiating Instability of Nonzonal Ocean Currents," Dr. Kamenkovich demonstrates a novel mechanism to enhance the radiation of mesoscale energy from currents such as the Gulf Stream by considering the zonality of the current.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 4, 1998.

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