Head of UMass Amherst Chemistry Department Named to Prestigious National Council

AMHERST, Mass. - Lila Gierasch, head of the department of chemistry at the University of Massachusetts, has been named to the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council. Donna E. Shalala, U.S. secretary of health and human services, made the announcement.

The council, which meets three times a year, is composed of 12 leaders in the biological and medical sciences, education, health care, and public affairs, along with four ex officio members. Its members, who are appointed for four-year terms, review applications for research and research training grants that have been assigned to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The members make recommendations to the secretary of health and human services, to the director of the National Institutes of Health, and to the director of NIGMS on policy matters, important areas of research, and personnel needs.

The institute supports fundamental work, including much of the chemical research carried out in the U.S., with a vision that this kind of work leads to a depth of understanding of life processes that will enable more enlightened approaches to solving human health problems," said Gierasch. "It is gratifying and fascinating to see the caliber and breadth of current biomedical research and the potential for the future."

Gierasch 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. She was president of the 5,000-member Biophysical Society, a national organization, from 1995-96.