Biographies of Committee Members and Staff
JOHN A. BAROSS, Chair, is a professor in the School of Oceanography and the Center for Astrobiology and Evolution at the University of Washington. His research specialty is the ecology, physiology, and taxonomy of microorganisms from hydrothermal vents and subseafloor environments. Dr. Baross has particular interests in the microbiology of extreme environments and in the significance of submarine hydrothermal vent environments for the origin and evolution of life and for the possibility of life on other planets in similar settings. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, an associate member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the American Society for Microbiology, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the International Society for the Study of the Origin and Evolution of Life. He previously served on several National Research Council (NRC) committees, including service as co-chair of the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life (2000-2002) and the Committee for a Review of Programs to Determine the Extent of Life in the Universe (2001-2002). Dr. Baross also served as a member of the Steering Group for the Workshop on Size Limits of Very Small Microorganisms (1998-1999), the Task Group on Sample Return from Small Solar System Bodies (1997-1998), and the Ad Hoc Task Group on Planetary Protection (1991-1992).
STEVEN A. BENNER is a distinguished fellow at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution. He was previously a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Florida. Dr. Benner’s research involves various facets of biochemistry and bioorganic studies with emphases on bioinformatics, experimental paleobiochemistry, nucleic acid chemistry, small-molecule evolution, astrobiology, and nanotechnology. He has lectured on such topics as “Genomic Sequences as Organic Molecules: An Evolutionary Approach to Understanding What They Do,” “Reconstructing the Chemical Past: Experimental Paleobiochemistry,” and “Redesigning Nucleic Acids: Obtaining Molecular Evolution in the Laboratory.” Dr. Benner has served on several NRC committees, including the Committee on the Astrophysical Context of Life (2003-2004), the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life in the Universe (2001-2004), and the Committee for a Review of Programs to Determine the Extent of Life in the Universe (2001-2002).
GEORGE D. CODY is a geologist and member of the Senior Research Staff in the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. His research interests include abiotic organic synthesis, the organic geochemistry of biomacromolecules, and the structure and chemistry of extraterrestrial macromolecules. His most recent research focuses on coupling programs in experimental organic geochemistry with theoretical or computational
chemistry with the ultimate goal of highlighting subtle but important long-range controls in local molecular reactivity. Dr. Cody was awarded an Enrico Fermi Scholarship in the Chemistry Division at Argonne National Laboratory in 1994 and a Japanese Society for the Advancement of Science fellowship in 1996. He was elected vice chair of the Origins of Life Gordon Conference for 2003, and subsequently chair, in 2005. Dr. Cody also served as co-organizer of the Living Planet Symposium held at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 2002. He served as a member of the NRC Task Group on Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System (2000-2004).
SHELLEY D. COPLEY is a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests center on the molecular evolution of enzymes and metabolic pathways and protein structure-function relationships. Dr. Copley is a member of the Council of Fellows of the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Dr. Copley served on the NSF Molecular Biochemistry Panel (1999-2003), was co-chair for the Gordon Conference on Enzymes, Coenzymes, and Metabolic Pathways (2004), and currently serves on the National Institutes of Health Genetic Variation and Evolution Study Section.
NORMAN R. PACE is a professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado. Dr. Pace is an internationally recognized expert in nucleic acids and associated enzymes. His studies of ribosomal RNA structures have set new standards for the definition of phylogenetic relationships among organisms. His research interests include RNA enzymes, RNA processing, macromolecular structure, molecular evolution, and microbial ecology. Dr. Pace formerly served as a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology. In addition, he has served on several NRC committees, including the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life in the Universe (2000-2002), the Committee for a Review of Programs to Determine the Extent of Life in the Universe (2001-2002), and the Steering Group for the Workshop on Size Limits of Very Small Microorganisms (1998-1999).
JAMES H. SCOTT leads the geobiology group within the Department of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College. He analyzes carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotope ratios to understand how physiological and biochemical processes that occur in microorganisms affect the surrounding geochemistry, and vice versa. Recently, he has been focusing on the isotopic fractionation associated with specific biochemicals such as amino acids, lipids, and nucleotides, which may reveal key pathways that communities of microorganisms use in metabolism. He was formerly a member of the senior staff in the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. He has presented papers at numerous scientific conferences, including ASLO, Under Represented Minorities Program, Presentation Session, Santa Fe, N. Mex., 1992; Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C. (Geophysical Laboratory, Fall-Winter Seminar Series), 1999 and 2001; and the American Chemical Society, San Diego, Calif., 2001. In addition, he has presented papers at the (1) International Conference on High Pressure Bioscience and Biotechnology, Dortmund, Germany 2002, (2) Living Planet Seminar at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C., 2002, (3) Carnegie Centennial Symposium (Connecting the Earth’s Physical and Biological Components), Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C., 2002, and (4) Gordon Research Conference on the Origins of Life in Ventura, Calif., 2005. His academic awards and distinctions include a 1989 SROP-CIC internship, University of Wisconsin (UW)-Milwaukee; a 1991 REU-NSF internship, Center for Great Lakes Studies, UW-Milwaukee; a 1992-1995 AOP pre-doctoral fellow award; a 1993 MBL scholarship, Microbial Diversity Summer Course, MBL, Woods Hole, Mass.; and the 2001 NASA Astrobiology Institute Director’s Travel Scholarship.
ROBERT SHAPIRO is professor emeritus and senior research scientist in the Department of Chemistry at New York University. His research has centered on the chemistry of nucleic acids, with emphasis on the reactions of DNA and RNA with carcinogens and mutagens. Dr. Shapiro is author or co-author of over 110 publications, primarily in the area of DNA chemistry. In particular, he and his co-workers have studied the ways in which environmental chemicals can damage our hereditary material, causing changes that can lead to mutations and cancer.
Dr. Shapiro is also the author or co-author of books that include Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth and Life Beyond Earth. His research has been supported by numerous grants from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and other organizations. Dr. Shapiro is the recipient of the 2004 Trotter Prize in Information, Complexity and Inference and he has received a National Institutes of Health Career Development Award. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the New York Academy of Sciences. Although Dr. Shapiro had no prior NRC committee experience, he participated in the formulation of the current study by virtue of the key role he played in the April 2002 Weird Life Workshop sponsored by the SSB/BLS Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life.
MITCHELL L. SOGIN is director of the Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution at the Marine Biological Laboratory. His research interests emphasize molecular phylogeny and the evolution of eukaryotic ribosomal RNAs. He is a member of the American Society of Microbiology, the Society of Protozoologists, the International Society of Evolutionary Protozoologists, the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Society for Cell Biology. Dr. Sogin is a former member of the Space Studies Board, an associate fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, a division lecturer for the American Society of Microbiology, a recipient of the Stoll Stunkard Award from the American Society of Parasitologists, a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, and a visiting Miller Research Professor at the University of California at Berkeley. He was a member of the NRC Committee on Preventing the Forward Contamination of Mars.
JEFFREY L. STEIN is currently a Kauffman Fellow at Sofinnova Ventures. Dr. Stein has held a number of senior scientific and management positions in the biopharmaceutical industry. He was a founder, director, executive vice president, and chief scientific officer of Quorex Pharmaceuticals. Prior to co-founding Quorex, he was principal scientist at Diversa Corporation, where he founded and led both the small-molecule discovery team and the microbial diversity group. Dr. Stein was formerly a principal investigator at the Agouron Institute in La Jolla, Calif., where he pioneered the cloning and expression of multi-gene small-molecule pathways from microbial genomes. Additionally, he currently holds research positions in the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine and the Marine Biology Research Division at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Dr. Stein received his Ph.D. from UCSD and conducted postdoctoral research as an Alexander Hollaender Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech in the laboratory of Melvin Simon.
ROGER SUMMONS is a professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also a member of the Earth System Initiative, under which he and his team work in collaboration with microbiologists and ecologists to identify and study environmentally and geologically significant processes that are mediated by microorganisms. His laboratory research focuses on the biogeochemistry of microbial ecosystems, chemistry of biomarkers-molecular fossils, isotopic biosignatures, geochemistry of petroleum, and co-evolution of life and Earth’s surface environment. Dr. Summons is a fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. His NRC experience includes membership on the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life (2003-2006).
JACK W. SZOSTAK is the Alexander Rich Distinguished Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. A distinguished molecular biologist, Dr. Szostak has made groundbreaking contributions in several different areas of biology, most recently to the understanding of the origins of biological catalysis. He has contributed more than 100 articles to scientific journals. He served as co-chair of the Nucleic Acids Gordon Research Conference in 1993 and of the Keystone Symposium on RNA in 1996, and he was the Harvey Society Lecturer in 1998. Dr. Szostak was awarded, along with Gerald Joyce, the National Academy of Sciences Award in molecular biology in 1994 and the Hans Sigrist Prize from the University of Bern in 1997. He participated in the SSB’s workshop “Research Issues Regarding Alternative Life Forms (Weird Life).”
Dr. Szostak is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as the co-chair of two NRC committees: the Origins and Evolution of Life in the Universe and the Astrophysical Context of Life.
DAVID H. SMITH, Study Director, joined the staff of the Space Studies Board in 1991. He is the senior staff officer and study director for a variety of NRC activities, including the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration, the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life, the Mars Astrobiology Task Group, the Mars Architecture Assessment Task Group, the Committee on the Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems, the Task Group on Organic Environments in the Solar System, the Nuclear Systems Committee, and the proposed Lunar Science Strategy Committee. He also organizes the SSB’s summer intern program and supervises most, if not all, of the interns. He received a B.Sc. in mathematical physics from the University of Liverpool in 1976 and a D.Phil. in theoretical astrophysics from Sussex University in 1981. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at Queen Mary College, University (1980-1982) he held the position of associate editor and, later, technical editor of Sky and Telescope. Immediately prior to joining the staff of the Space Studies Board, Dr. Smith was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1990-1991).
JOSEPH K. ALEXANDER, senior program officer, served previously as director of the Space Studies Board (1999-2005), deputy assistant administrator for science in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development (1994-1998), associate director of space sciences at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (1993-1994), and assistant associate administrator for space sciences and applications in the NASA Office of Space Science and Applications (1987-1993). Other positions have included deputy NASA chief scientist and senior policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Mr. Alexander’s own research work has been in radio astronomy and space physics. He received B.S. and M.A. degrees in physics from the College of William and Mary.
ROBERT L. RIEMER joined the staff of the National Research Council in 1985. He served as Senior Program Officer for the two most recent decadal surveys of astronomy and astrophysics and has worked on studies in many areas of physics and astronomy for the Board on Physics and Astronomy (where he served as associate director from 1988 to 2000) and the Space Studies Board. Prior to joining the NRC, Dr. Riemer was a senior project geophysicist with Chevron Corporation. He received his Ph.D. in experimental high-energy physics from the University of Kansas-Lawrence and his B.S. in physics and astrophysics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
CATHERINE A. GRUBER is an assistant editor with the Space Studies Board (SSB). She joined the SSB as a senior program assistant in 1995. Ms. Gruber first came to the NRC in 1988 as a senior secretary for the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board and has also worked as an outreach assistant for the National Academy of Sciences-Smithsonian Institution’s National Science Resources Center. She was a research assistant (chemist) in the National Institute of Mental Health’s Laboratory of Cell Biology for 2 years. She has a B.A. in natural science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
RODNEY N. HOWARD joined the Space Studies Board as a senior project assistant in 2002. Before joining SSB, most of his vocational life was spent in the health profession—as a pharmacy technologist at Doctor’s Hospital in Lanham, Maryland, and as an interim center administrator at the Concentra Medical Center in Jessup, Maryland. During that time, he participated in a number of Quality Circle Initiatives that were designed to improve relations between management and staff. Mr. Howard obtained his B.A. in communications from the University of Baltimore County in 1983. He plans to begin coursework next year for his master’s degree in business administration.