Six faculty and researchers affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. They are Yale Goldman, Drew Weissman, and Katalin Karikó of the Perelman School of Medicine, Nicholas Sambanis of the School of Arts & Sciences, Diana Slaughter Kotzin of the Graduate School of Education, and Dorothy E. Roberts, a Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor with appointments in the Law School and School of Arts & Sciences.
They join more than 260 new members honored in 2022, recognized for their “accomplishments and leadership in academia, the arts, industry, public policy, and research.”
Yale Goldman is a professor of physiology at the Perelman School of Medicine, with a secondary appointment in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. A Philadelphia native, he has been a fixture at Penn for decades, arriving on campus in the early 1970s as a doctoral student and joining the faculty in 1980. From 1988 until 2010, he served as director of the Pennsylvania Muscle Institute at Penn.
Goldman’s research focuses on better understanding the structural changes that the body’s biologic machines undergo. He and his lab have developed novel biophysical techniques to observe this, ranging from nanometer tracking of fluorescent molecules to infrared optical traps, known as laser tweezers. The goal is to make discoveries that, in the long term, lead to better outcomes for those with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, and cardiac myopathies.
A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Goldman has also served as president of the Biophysical Society and as an editorial board member of the Journal of Physiology and the Biophysical Journal.
Katalin Karikó is a senior vice president at BioNTech and an adjunct professor of neurosurgery in the Perelman School of Medicine. She joined the University of Pennsylvania in 1989 and began collaborating with Drew Weissman in 1997. Together, they invented the modified mRNA technology used in Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines to prevent COVID-19 infection.
For decades, Karikó’s research as a biochemist has focused on RNA-mediated mechanisms, with the goal of developing in vitro–transcribed mRNA for protein therapy. She investigated RNA-mediated immune activation and co-discovered with Weissman that nucleoside modifications suppress the immunogenicity of RNA. This led to the development of the two most effective vaccines for COVID-19.
Karikó has been honored with the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Lasker-Debakey Clinical Medical Research Award, the Princess of Asturias Award, and the Vilcek Prize for Excellence in Biotechnology. She continues to work on new therapeutic applications of mRNA therapy.
Diana Slaughter Kotzin, professor emerita in the Graduate School of Education, was the inaugural Constance E. Clayton Professor in Urban Education from 1998 to 2011. Her research interests included culture, primary education, and home-school relations facilitating in-school academic achievement.
Before joining Penn, she taught at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy for 20 years. Previously she was on the faculties of Howard University, Yale University, and the University of Chicago, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human development and a Ph.D. in human development and clinical psychology. Among her many awards and accolades, in 2019 she was designated a “pioneer woman of color among the first to break into psychology’s ranks” by the American Psychological Association.
Dorothy E. Roberts is the George A. Weiss Professor of Law & Sociology, the Raymond Pace & Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, and professor of Africana studies. She is also the founding director of the Program on Race, Science, and Society. With appointments in the Law School and the School of Arts & Sciences, Roberts works at the intersection of law, social justice, science, and health, focusing on urgent social justice issues in policing, family regulation, science, medicine, and bioethics.
Her major books include “Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century” (New Press, 2011); “Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare” (Basic Books, 2002), and “Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty” (Pantheon, 1997). Her newest, “Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World” (Basic Books), was published in early April. She is the author of more than 100 scholarly articles and book chapters, as well as a co-editor of six books on such topics as constitutional law and women and the law.
Nicholas Sambanis is a Presidential Distinguished Professor of Political Science and director of the Penn Identity & Conflict Lab (PIC Lab). He writes on conflict processes with a focus on civil wars and other forms of intergroup conflict.
Sambanis’ interdisciplinary PIC Lab works on a broad range of topics related to intergroup conflict in the world, including the effects of external intervention on peace-building after ethnic war, the analysis of violent escalation of separatist movements, conflict between native and immigrant populations, and strategies to mitigate bias and discrimination against minority groups. His focus is the connection between identity politics and conflict processes drawing on social psychology, behavioral economics, and the comparative politics and international relations literatures in political science.
Drew Weissman is the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research at the Perelman School of Medicine and an internationally recognized scientist whose foundational research with scientific collaborator Katalin Karikó gave way to mRNA vaccines and a highly effective method of curbing the spread of COVID-19.
For decades, Weissman has studied immunology and the ways mRNA might trigger protective immune responses, first at the National Institutes of Health focused on HIV and then at Penn, where he turned his attention to developing mRNA vaccines for other diseases and conditions. One goal is to create a pan-coronavirus vaccine, which could prevent all types of coronaviruses, including COVID-19. He has also worked with researchers globally to help them develop mRNA COVID vaccines and to increase access to such vaccines in remote and under-resourced areas.
Weissman has received many awards, including the Lasker-Debakey Clinical Medical Research Award, the Princess of Asturias Award, the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.