After earning her Ph.D. in biochemical sciences from Princeton in 1977, Elaine Fuchs embarked on a remarkable career in cell biology and molecular genetics. Her work has probed the properties of stem cells and enhanced our understanding of inherited diseases and cancers. She explained her most significant work, on the human skin, in a commencement address at the University of Chicago:
"I explore how [skin] functions at a molecular level to keep microbes out, to keep our body fluids in so we don't dehydrate, and to protect us from the mechanical and physical stresses of our environment. Through elucidating the normal functions of the skin, my laboratory has been guided to the genetic bases of different types of inherited and acquired disorders of the skin, ranging from severe blistering disorders to skin cancers."
Fuchs, a Rockefeller University professor, has collected a long list of honors and honorary degrees, and last week, she received word of another: Fuchs will be one of nine recipients of the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific award. She will be honored Oct. 7 at a White House ceremony led by President Barack Obama.
In a news release, Obama called the honorees "national icons, embodying the very best of American ingenuity and inspiring a new generation of thinkers and innovators."
Fuchs is not the only National Medal of Science winner with Princeton ties. Astronomy professor James Gunn, best known for mapping the heavens with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, also will be honored this year.
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