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Two Duke Faculty Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Joseph Heitman and Rachel E. Kranton
Two Duke professors have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences: Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Chair Joseph Heitman (left) and James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Economics Rachel E. Kranton (right)

Two Duke faculty members have been elected as members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the highest honors in the profession.

Joseph Heitman, MD, PhD, the James B. Duke Professor and Chair of theDepartment of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology in the Duke University School of Medicine, and Rachel Kranton, PhD, the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Economics and Dean of Social Sciences in the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, join 37 other Duke faculty members previously elected to the institution.

They are among 120 new members elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Those elected this year bring the total number of active members of the NAS to 2,461.

Heitman studies model and pathogenic fungi to address unsolved problems in biology and medicine. His pioneering research using the model budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae led to the discovery of FKBP12 and TOR as the targets of rapamycin, a drug now widely used in organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, and interventional cardiology.

Heitman’s research studying the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus led to the discovery of a previously unknown form of sexual reproduction in the fungus known as unisexual reproduction. He has a long-standing interest in fungal genetics and evolution.

A Burroughs-Wellcome Scholar and HHMI investigator, Heitman is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He joined Duke in 1992 and became chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology in 2009.

Kranton, the first economist from Duke elected to NAS membership, joined the university in 2007. Her research focuses on the impact that institutions and social settings have on economic outcomes, with implications in microeconomics, economic development and industrial organization.

In the 2010 book Identity Economics, part of a long-term collaboration with Nobel Prize-winner George Akerlof, Kranton introduced a general framework for examining the role of social norms and identity in the economic choices people make. Studying race and gender in schools and workplaces, they show how identity helps explain how individuals work, learn, spend and save.

Kranton has also played a leading role in the study of the economics of networks, a budding field that investigates the way social networks and relationships shape economic activity.

In addition to NAS, Kranton is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the Econometric Society and was awarded a Chaire Blaise Pascal.