Professor Nei named John Scott Award winner
Masatoshi Nei, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Biology, has won the prestigious John Scott Award for contributing to the “comfort, welfare and happiness” of humankind. Past winners include Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, R. Buckminster Fuller, Jonas Salk and Nikola Tesla.
Nei has been a major contributor to population and evolutionary genetics theory throughout his distinguished career. He is one of a select few to have a statistic named for him, and “Nei’s genetic distance” is a cornerstone of population genetic analyses. His many awards include the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, in 2013, and the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal, Genetics Society of America.
Before coming to Temple, he was Evan Pugh Professor of Biology at Pennsylvania State University and director of the Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics. Nei’s research involves analyzing the “distance” between genes in different organisms to determine how long ago they diverged on the evolutionary tree of life.
In the early 1800s, John Scott, an Edinburgh chemist, set up a fund with the entity entrusted with the management of Benjamin Franklin’s legacy to bestow a small honorarium to “ingenious men or women who make useful inventions.”
The first awards were bestowed in 1834 to the inventors of a knitting machine and a door lock. Since the 1920s, most Scott Awards have gone to honorees in science and medicine, recognizing such contributions as the prevention of yellow fever and malaria and the development of penicillin. Today, the award is administered by a committee of Philadelphians appointed by the Board of Directors of City Trusts of the City of Philadelphia.
Nei is the third College of Science and Technology faculty member to win the Scott Award. Previous awardees are John Perdew, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Physics and Chemistry, for his groundbreaking role in the development of density functional theory, a computational modeling method used in physics, chemistry and materials science to investigate the structure of atoms, molecules, crystals, surfaces and their interactions, and Professor Emeritus Franklin A. Davis for his discoveries of new experimental procedures for the synthesis of important molecular structures.
Madeleine Joullie, professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania who currently serves on CST’s Board of Visitors, was also honored in 2015 for her research on the synthesis of natural products, which has led to the creation of antiviral and antibacterial compounds.