LSU professor is to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

LSU professor is to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

POSTED: Sunday, May 6, 2012 - 11:00am

UPDATED: Sunday, May 6, 2012 - 11:04am

Meredith Blackwell, Boyd Professor of biological sciences at LSU, joins the ranks of some of the world’s most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities and the arts with election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 6, at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

“I still remember when Professor C. J. Alexopoulos, my major professor at the University of Texas, received word that he had been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1976. He was thrilled, and I am just as thrilled in 2012,” said Blackwell. “It is wonderful to open an envelope and discover great news that is totally unexpected. Imagine me in the same club as Dirty Harry! I can only wonder who nominated me, but I hope my deep appreciation will be discovered by him or her.”

Blackwell’s current research project, nicknamed “beetle belly yeasts,” involves isolating yeasts and other microbes from the gut of insects, especially wood-feeding beetles. Blackwell has many collaborators on this project and her work has taken her to Panama, Guatemala and Thailand.

Aside from being intellectually exciting, Blackwell’s research may have industrial uses in that some of the microbes have rare enzymes that are useful in pulping wood and fermenting wood components into alcohol and other chemicals.

Blackwell’s research has been funded mostly by the National Science Foundation, or NSF, but also by the Department of Energy and the Boyd Professors research fund, for more than 30 years.

“Meredith is without question among the world’s leading scholars in the study of fungi,” said Kevin Carman, dean, LSU College of Science. “This recognition is richly deserved and indeed long overdue.”

Since its founding in 1780, the academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

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