Neil Shubin elected to National Academy of Sciences, honored for teaching

May 4, 2011

Neil Shubin, PhD

University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin, PhD, the Robert R. Bensley Professor and Associate Dean of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, has been elected a Member of the National Academy of Sciences and honored with a prestigious national teaching award.

The National Academy of Sciences was created in 1863 by an act of Congress signed by Abraham Lincoln to act as an official adviser to the federal government in any matter of science or technology. Membership in the Academy is one of the highest honors afforded a U.S. scientist. 72 new members and 18 foreign associates from 15 countries were announced May 3, 2011, in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Shubin's research on the evolution of limb development has taken him from hunting fossils in the Canadian Arctic to exploring the genes of salamander and shark embryos in his campus laboratory. In 2004, Shubin and his team discovered the pivotal fossil named Tiktaalik roseae, a transitional species between ancient fish and the first legged animals. The discovery inspired Shubin's 2008 book Your Inner Fish: A Journey Through the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, which has won science-writing awards from Phi Beta Kappa, the Library Journal, and the National Academy of Sciences.

This week, Shubin was also announced as this year's recipient of the Distinguished Service Award for Enhancing Education through Biological Research from the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT). The award recognizes scientists for the significant contribution that their research has made to the field of biology education. Previous winners of the award include James Watson, Stephen Jay Gould, Francis Collins, E.O. Wilson, Sean Carroll, Ken Miller, and Richard Dawkins.

"I am deeply honored to receive the NABT Distinguished Service Award. In an age where the ideas and tools of biology are increasingly playing a role in our lives, it is a deep honor to be recognized by those who are at the front lines of educating the next generation," Shubin said.

This award will be presented later this year at the 2011 NABT Professional Development Conference in Anaheim, CA during the Biology Educator Leadership Scholarship (BELS) Benefit Dinner, where Shubin will be the featured speaker.

"Dr. Neil Shubin is one of the leading voices of the new evolutionary synthesis. His work in the field of expeditionary paleontology has lead to numerous fossil finds that have transformed the way we think about many of the key transformations in evolution, culminating in his discovery of Tiktaalik roseae," said Daniel Ward, President of NABT. "His many lectures, television appearances, and writings have contributed much to the general public's understanding of biology, biology education and science literacy, and I can think of no more deserving an individual to receive the NABT Distinguished Service Award."

A John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow, Shubin earned a PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University in 1987 and joined the University of Chicago as Chairman of Organismal Biology & Anatomy in 2001. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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