Lorraine S. Symington, PhD, the Harold S. Ginsberg Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Symington, also a member of Columbia’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, studies how the cell repairs harmful DNA damage. When both strands of DNA break, homologous recombination is the main mechanism for repair. Defects in this repair mechanism have been associated with increased mutagenesis and cancer. Drugs that increase DNA damage, or disable other repair mechanisms, are effective in the treatment of cancers with homologous recombination deficiencies.
In recent years, the Symington lab has developed elegant genetic assays, coupled with physical analysis of recombination intermediates, to understand homologous recombination, and to further characterize how members of the RAD52 group of genes are involved in the repair of double-strand breaks.
She uses budding yeast as a model system, with the long-term goal of identifying the genes that control homologous recombination in people.
“Dr. Lorraine Symington is an outstanding educator and scientist who has made major, lasting contributions toward our understanding of mechanisms of DNA-damage induced break repair,” says Sankar Ghosh, PhD, chair of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology and the Silverstein and Hutt Family Professor of Microbiology. “Besides her outstanding science, she has been a great citizen of the department and medical school and currently directs our graduate studies. We are all proud to be her colleagues and can think of no one more deserving of this honor.”
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 and is one of the nation’s oldest learned societies. The academy’s membership of 4,900 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members includes leaders from academia, business, and government who convene to address societal challenges and provide policy advice to decision-makers.
Symington is one of 213 members of the Academy’s Class of 2018, which includes five other Columbia faculty: Deborah Eisenberg (School of the Arts), Robert Gooding-Williams (Philosophy), Julia B. Hirschberg (Computer Science), Patricia W. Kitcher (Philosophy), and David R. Reichman (Chemistry).
There are now 26 AAAS fellows among current faculty at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.