Close up of Ruth Lehmann

Gretchen Ertl/Whitehead Institute

Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society

Whitehead Institute Director and President Ruth Lehmann has been named a Foreign Member of the Royal Society. The election recognizes her “pioneering studies of the mechanisms underlying the embryonic development and reproduction of the fruit fly Drosophila.” It honors her work establishing the role of messenger RNA localization in specifying the antero-posterior body axis and germ line development and additionally notes her discoveries that revealed the role of lipid-based signaling pathways in the migration of germ cells to the developing gonads.

The Fellowship of the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s national academy of sciences, has been honoring excellence in science for over 360 years. It is the oldest national scientific organization. Fellows include leaders in their field from the United Kingdom and Foreign Members from around the world across scientific disciplines in academia, industry, and wider society. In July, Lehmann will attend Admissions Day in London during which she will officially join the Fellowship and sign her name in the Society’s Charter Book, which has been used since 1663 and includes the signature of such eminent scientists as Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin, and Tim Berners-Lee. 

Lehmann, who is also a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), studies the biology of germ cells which, by becoming sperm or egg cells, have the critical role of transmitting genetic information to the next generation. Research in the Lehmann lab has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of how these cells are formed and how they pass along their instructions.

“I share my joy about this wonderful recognition with past and present lab members, whose contributions made our work on the life cycle of the germline possible. Membership in the Royal Society is an incredible honor and I look forward to contribute to the society through cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural exchange,” says Lehmann.

Among her many other honors and awards, Lehmann is the recent recipient of the Vanderbilt Prize (2022), the Gruber Prize in Genetics (2022), the Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science (2021), the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal (2021) and the Amory Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2021). She is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Associate Member of EMBO.

Lehmann has been the Director and President of Whitehead Institute since 2020, coming from New York University (NYU), where she served as the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Professor of Cell Biology and director of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine (2006-2020) and from 2014-2020 as the Chair of the Department of Cell Biology at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine. She also became an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1990 and again in 1997. Becoming the director of Whitehead Institute was a return to the Institute for Lehmann, who was a Member of the Institute and faculty member at MIT from 1988-1996.



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