Birth of a legend?

First of all, I hope you’ll all excuse the somewhat overreaching title of this post – the coincidental timing of this and the previous post, however, seemed to merit some comparison.

Second of all (and the point of this post): The National Academy of Science has elected 72 new members and 18 foreign associates (which is the maximum that can be elected in any given year, apparently), of which a pleasantly surprising number are chemists (such as Frances Arnold, Steven Boxer, Steven Buchwald, Ken Dill, Michael Grunstein, Eric Jacobsen, and Tim Swager). Go chemists! It is perhaps worth noting, however, that only a small number of these folks have mustaches (which bodes well for Ken Dill; to be explained later).

The NAS site also tells us that ‘election is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer’. What do you guys think? Are you more impressed by someone who is in the HHMI? Or someone who’s won a Cope Award, the Priestley Medal, or the Nakanishi Prize? How do you think the Kavli Prize will stack up (to be awarded for the first time in May)? Do you think NAS membership (or, in fact, most of these awards) would be more or less impressive if the rationale for who was picked was more transparent? Or do you find that the people doing great work come to be well-known and well-respected regardless of these external trappings?

In any case, it’s clear that chemists are doing some moving and shaking (and shaving) these days. Congratulations to the new NAS members.

Catherine (associate editor, Nature Chemical Biology)