Head of UMass Amherst Chemistry Department Named to National Science Foundation Committee

AMHERST, Mass. - Lila Gierasch, head of the department of chemistry at the University of Massachusetts, has been named to the Mathematical and Physical Science (MPS) Advisory Committee of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The committee advises the NSF on scientific, educational, and governmental issues that are important to NSF programs in math and the physical sciences: astronomy, chemistry, materials research, and physics. The 19-member committee is comprised of individuals who represent a broad spectrum of researchers from throughout the U.S., said Robert A. Eisenstein, assistant director for math and physical science at the NSF. MPS awards some $715 million in research dollars each year, he said.

"We’re looking forward to having Dr. Gierasch serve on the committee," said Eisenstein. "She is a strong researcher with expertise in the connections that exist between chemistry and the biological sciences, which is a topic that the NSF is interested in exploring."

Gierasch also serves on the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council, to which she was named by Donna E. Shalala, U.S. secretary of health and human services. She did her undergraduate work in chemistry at Mount Holyoke College, and earned her doctorate in biophysics from Harvard University. She is a leading authority on protein chemistry; some of her work has focused on molecular "chaperones," a class of proteins that stabilize cells against stress. Gierasch taught at Amherst College, the University of Delaware, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center before joining the UMass faculty in 1994. She was president of the 5,000-member Biophysical Society, a national organization, from 1995-96.