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UC Riverside professor receives top scientific honor

RIVERSIDE, Calif. UC Riverside's Alexander Raikhel, a professor of entomology, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for his excellence in original scientific research.

Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States. Raikhel will be inducted into the academy next April during its 147th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Raikhel, elected along with 71 others, brings the number of current UCR faculty elected to NAS to three. Four additional UCR faculty members who received the honor are deceased; one faculty member who received the honor when he was at UCR is now at UC Irvine.

There are currently just over 2,000 active NAS members. Among the NAS's renowned members are Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, and Alexander Graham Bell. More than 180 living NAS members have won Nobel Prizes.

"This extraordinary honor recognizes Dr. Raikhel's groundbreaking contributions to understanding mosquito physiology, particularly the molecular and genetic basis of events in the mosquito's reproductive cycle that are linked to utilizing a blood meal to develop eggs, and to transmission of human diseases such as malaria and dengue," said Ring Card, chair of UCR's Department of Entomology.

Raikhel was raised and educated in the Soviet Union. He obtained his M.S. in zoology from Leningrad (St. Petersburg) University and his Ph.D. in biological sciences from the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He and his family immigrated as political refugees to the United States in 1979.

He is recognized internationally for his significant contributions to insect science and vector biology. A leader in insect and mosquito reproduction and immunity, he is the author or coauthor of more than 150 research papers in international peer-reviewed scientific journals and books.

At UCR, his research focuses on genetic studies of blood-feeding arthropods, especially mosquitoes, which are responsible for transmitting many different diseases to animals and humans. His accomplishments include being among pioneers of genetic engineering of disease-resistant mosquitoes for the purpose of mosquito control.

Raikhel has deciphered in great molecular detail a chemical chain reaction and genes which prompts disease-spreading mosquitoes to produce and mature their eggs. Manipulation of this process may be key to controlling the mosquito populations responsible for the spread of disease.

His laboratory also uncovered how a female mosquito's first blood meal triggers its reproductive system to produce eggs, a finding that could lead someday to new ways of controlling disease-spreading mosquito populations.

His research team recently identified a pathway by which the mosquito's immune system recognizes some pathogens and protects the mosquito from disease.

Raikhel came to UCR's Department of Entomology in January 2002 from Michigan State University. He is a recipient of many awards, including a Distinguished Faculty Award from Michigan State University and the Entomological Society of America Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology. In 2002, he received a prestigious ten-year, $4.3 million research merit grant from the National Institutes of Health to carry out research on mosquito reproduction.

Raikhel was thrilled and humbled by his election to the NAS.

"I am delighted to see that the NAS recognizes the importance of insect science and vector biology by honoring a researcher in this field," he said. "I am deeply grateful to members of my laboratory, past and present, who contributed to my success and recognition. My thanks go also to my beloved family, Natasha, Eugene, Vincent, Iris and Eli, for their love and support."

The NAS is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furthering science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Established in 1863, the academy has served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.


Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

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