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Genome scientist elected to the National Academy of Sciences

By Andy Fell on May 2, 2012 in

Cattle, Genomes and the National Academy of Sciences

Harris Lewin, vice chancellor for research and professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States. Including Lewin, 21 UC Davis faculty are members of the academy.

"I'm delighted that the academy has chosen to recognize Harris Lewin's work and achievements," said Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. "As vice chancellor for research, his experience in building research collaborations across disciplinary boundaries is invaluable as we take our research enterprise to the next level."

"I am grateful to all those institutions, and the individuals within them, who enabled me to maximize the extraordinary opportunities presented by more than 30 years in science," Lewin said. "In particular, I must thank the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for allowing me the freedom to explore and to create; my family and mentors; and the many graduate students, postdocs and staff who are the primary reasons for my success.

"Special appreciation goes to my colleagues here at UC Davis, who exemplify excellence at every level, and who have supported me in my transition to the faculty and administration."

Throughout his career, Lewin has been deeply involved in interdisciplinary research that has the potential to move from the laboratory to the marketplace, where it can help solve real-world problems. As a graduate student at UC Davis, he discovered genetic factors linked to disease resistance in cattle, leading to a patent on a screening test for cattle resistance to leukemia viruses. After graduating from UC Davis in 1984 with a doctorate in immunology, he moved to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he was founding director of the Institute for Genomic Biology. He is widely known for his work in mammalian genomics, especially in livestock, and he played a leading role in the sequencing of the bovine genome.

Lewin returned to UC Davis in 2011 as vice chancellor for research. In that position, he oversees the Office of Research, which is responsible for organizing and promoting research on campus; managing grant applications; and overseeing intellectual property, technology transfer and efforts to translate UC Davis discoveries into new companies and products. Lewin's office is also responsible for interdisciplinary Organized Research Units, research programs and facilities, such as the Institute for Transportation Studies, John Muir Institute of the Environment, Biotechnology Program and the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory.

Lewin is holder of the Robert and Rosabel Osborne Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology, one of the top ranked departments in the country. He is also a member of the UC Davis Genome Center where he has a laboratory and is continuing his research on genome evolution.

In 2010-11, UC Davis received $684 million in funds to support research. According to a survey by the National Science Foundation, UC Davis ranks 16th in the nation in university research and development expenditures.

Katehi has set a goal of increasing the campus’s research budget to $1 billion, and Lewin has taken steps to help achieve that goal, including streamlining processes in the Office of Research and offering more support for interdisciplinary groups of faculty seeking to apply for large, multimillion-dollar grants.

The Office of Research recently announced the Interdisciplinary Frontiers Program, which will award grants of up to $1 million to faculty in science, engineering, arts and humanities as "seed money" to launch projects that can later compete for funding from external sources.

In 2011, Lewin was co-recipient of the prestigious Wolf Prize in Agriculture for his work on genetics, genomics and disease resistance in cattle. He also is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Lewin and 83 other new members will be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences next April during its 150th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furthering of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Established in 1863, the academy has served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" when called upon to do so by any department of the government. For more information, or for the full list of newly elected members, visit

Media contact(s)

Andy Fell, Research news (emphasis: biological and physical sciences, and engineering), 530-752-4533,