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Two NIDCD Grantees Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

NIDCD grantees John G. Hildebrand, Ph.D., and Ursula Bellugi, Ph.D., are among 72 new members and 18 foreign associates from 12 countries who were recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). NAS is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to furthering science and technology and their use for the general welfare. Election to the NAS is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a scientist or engineer.

Dr. Hildebrand is an expert on the organization, structure, and function of the insect nervous system, particularly the insect olfactory system, and its effect on behavior. He pioneered the use of the tobacco hornworm moth, a giant moth with a comparatively large brain, as a model organism for studying the organization of an insect’s sense of smell. His research team is studying how the moth’s sense of smell helps guide its behavior, such as where it feeds or lays eggs. By furthering our understanding of how the sense of smell influences insect behavior, Dr.Hildebrand’s work may also be used to help control insects that spread disease or destroy crops.

Dr. Hildebrand graduated magna cum laude in biology from Harvard College in 1964 and earned his doctorate in biochemistry at Rockefeller University, NY, in 1969. He is a Regents Professor and professor of neurobiology, biochemistry and molecular biophysics, entomology, and molecular and cellular biology at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and director of the Arizona Research Laboratories Division of Neurobiology. In addition to his NIDCD-funded research, he has received funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), another NIH institute.

An expert and pioneer in the study of the biological foundation of language, Dr. Ursula Bellugi is regarded as the founder of the neurobiology of American Sign Language. Her work was the first to show that American Sign Language is a true language, complete with grammar and syntax, and is processed by many of the same parts of the brain that process spoken language. Her work has led to the discovery that the left hemisphere of the human brain becomes specialized for languages, whether spoken or signed, a demonstration of brain plasticity.

Dr. Bellugi graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and earned her doctorate at Harvard University. She directs the Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA. In addition to receiving funding from the NIDCD, Dr. Bellugi has received support from NINDS, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR).

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Celebrating 20 years of research: 1988 to 2008