Physics, Biology Professors Elected to National Academy of Sciences

April 29, 2014

Class of 1965 Term Professor of Physics and Astronomy Charles Kane and Patricia M. Williams Term Professor of Biology Scott Poethig have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, considered to be one of the highest honors a U.S. scientist or engineer can receive. Members are chosen for their achievements in original research. The 2014 Academy class consists of 84 members and 21 foreign associates.

Charles Kane’s research focuses on the theory of quantum electronic phenomena in solids, including theories of one-dimensional conductors, the fractional quantum Hall effect, carbon nanotubes, graphene, the quantum spin Hall effect, topological insulators, and topological quantum computing. He was part of an international team named laureates of the 2013 Physics Frontier Prize for work on the theoretical prediction and experimental discovery of topological insulators. 

In 2012 he became the first Penn professor to receive the Dirac Medal and Prize, given annually by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to scientists who have made significant contributions to theoretical physics. He also received the American Physical Society’s Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize, awarded for outstanding theoretical or experimental contributions to condensed matter physics, and a five-year, $500,000 grant from the Simons Foundation to pursue long-term studies of fundamental questions in theoretical fields.

Kane was just named one of the 2014 winners the Lindback Award, Penn’s top honor for teaching. He joined Penn’s faculty in 1991.

Scott Poethig’s research examines the mechanics of rapid change in plants, particularly the juvenile-to-adult transition, known as vegetative phase change, which precedes flowering. He is studying the microRNAs (miRNAs) that regulate gene expression in both plants and trees. In 2006 he identified the particular miRNA, called miR156, that serves as the master regulator of the Arabidopsis juvenile to adult phase transition. 

Poethig has been a member of the editorial boards of Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology, Development, Developmental Biology, and The Plant Journal, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest federation of scientists and publisher of Science. He has also received the Botanical Society of America’s Pelton Award for contributions to experimental plant morphology, and Penn’s Biology Department Teaching Award.

Poethig has been a member of the biology faculty since 1983 and is a former chair of the biology graduate group.