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Five professors among new members elected to National Academy of Sciences

Membership is one of the highest honors for a U.S. scientist or engineer; organization now has 136 scholars from Stanford

Steven M. Block

Steven M. Block

Karen S. Cook

Karen S. Cook

Michael D. Fayer

Michael D. Fayer

David Laitin

David Laitin

W. E. Moerner

W. E. Moerner

BY MARK SHWARTZ AND LISA TREI

Five Stanford University faculty members have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Steven M. Block, Karen S. Cook, Michael D. Fayer, David Laitin and W. E. Moerner are among 72 new members and 18 foreign associates recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research with membership to the academy.

Established by a congressional act in 1863, NAS is a private organization of scientists and engineers whose 2,025 active members are dedicated to furthering science and using it for the general welfare. Upon request, the academy advises the federal government on matters of science and technology.

Election to NAS is one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer. This year's election brings the total number of Stanford scholars serving on the academy to 136.

Profiles of Stanford's new NAS members follow:

Steven M. Block, the Stanford W. Ascherman Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, holds a joint appointment in the departments of Applied Physics and Biological Sciences. His research involves the use of "optical tweezers" to study the action of individual biomolecules at the atomic level. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in physics at Oxford University in 1974 and 1978. He earned a master's degree in biology at the University of Colorado in 1982 and a doctorate in biology at the California Institute of Technology in 1983. From 1987 to 1993, he was a staff scientist at the Rowland Institute for Science in Cambridge, Mass., and a lecturer at Harvard University. He was a professor of molecular biology at Princeton University from 1994 until 1999, when he joined the Stanford faculty. Block was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006. In 1994, he received the Young Investigator Award from the Biophysical Society and served as president of the society from 2005 to 2006. He also received the 2006 Award for Research Excellence in Nanotechnology from the Nano/Bio Interface Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Karen S. Cook, the Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor, is chair of the Department of Sociology and director of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS). From 2001 to 2005, she served as senior associate dean for the social sciences. Cook has a long-standing interest in social exchange, social networks, bargaining and social justice, and is involved in a large interdisciplinary project focusing on trust in social relations, particularly as they affect physician-patient relationships. She has co-edited a number of books in the Russell Sage Foundation Trust Series, including Trust in Society (2001) and Trust and Distrust in Organizations: Emerging Perspectives (2004). She co-authored Cooperation Without Trust? (2005) and co-edited Sociological Perspectives on Social Psychology (1995). Currently, she serves as co-editor of the Annual Review of Sociology. Cook is a former fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. In 1996, she was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She earned her bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Stanford. Before joining the Stanford faculty in 1998, she taught at the University of Washington and Duke University.

Michael D. Fayer, the David Mulvane Ehrsam and Edward Curtis Franklin Professor in Chemistry, joined the Stanford faculty in 1974. His research involves the development of ultrafast non-linear laser techniques to study molecular processes, intermolecular interactions and structure in complex molecular systems. Fayer earned bachelor's and doctoral degrees from the University of California-Berkeley in 1969 and 1974. He is an affiliate of the Sigma Xi scientific research society and an elected fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Fayer has received research fellowships from the Guggenheim, Alfred P. Sloan and Camille and Henry Dreyfus foundations. He is recipient of the 1986 Stanford University Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching, the 2000 APS Earl K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy and the American Chemical Society's 2007 E. Bright Wilson Award for Spectroscopy.

David Laitin, the James T. Watkins IV and Elise V. Watkins Professor of Political Science, studies comparative politics. He has conducted field research in Somalia, Nigeria, Spain and Estonia, working on issues of language and religion and how these cultural phenomena link nation to state. His books include Politics, Language and Thought: The Somali Experience and Identity in Formation: The Russian-Speaking Populations in the Near Abroad. In collaboration with Stanford political science Professor James Fearon, Laitin has published several papers on ethnic cooperation and approaches towards the amelioration of civil war violence. Laitin has held several positions in the American Political Science Association and currently is a member of its task force on terror and violence. In 1995, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Laitin has been a Howard Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow and a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the Russell Sage Foundation. He also has taught at the University of California-San Diego and the University of Chicago. Laitin earned his bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College and his doctorate from the University of California-Berkeley.

W. E. Moerner, the Harry S. Mosher Professor of Chemistry and professor, by courtesy, of applied physics, conducts research in physical chemistry, biophysics, nanophotonics and nanoparticle trapping. He earned three bachelor's degrees from Washington University in 1975 and master's and doctoral degrees from Cornell University in 1978 and 1982. From 1981 to 1995, he was a research staff member at IBM, receiving two IBM Outstanding Technical Achievement Awards. Moerner was guest professor of physical chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology from 1993 to 1994 and professor and distinguished chair in physical chemistry at the University of California-San Diego from 1995 to 1998, the year he joined the Stanford faculty. He was elected as a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1992 and received the society's Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy in 2001. His other elected fellowships include the Optical Society of America, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Australian Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.