News from Berkeley Lab

Two Berkeley Lab Researchers Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Abby Dernburg and Ramamoorthy Ramesh, two senior faculty scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. They join 118 other new members and 24 international members who will be formally inducted next April.

On top of being one of the highest honors a scientist or engineer can receive, membership to the NAS also provides a platform for advocacy and leadership. Since its creation in 1863, the NAS has served as a nonpartisan, nonprofit institution that offers science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations. All new NAS members and foreign associates are nominated by existing NAS members for outstanding contributions to their field. The 2024 electees bring the total number of active members to 2,617 with 537 international members.

Abby Dernburg is a member of Berkeley Lab’s Biological Systems and Engineering Division and professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley. She studies how chromosomes are physically reorganized and how they interact with each other during meiosis, the special type of cell division that leads to the creation of reproductive cells like sperm, eggs, and pollen. Her work uses animal models, genomic tools, and microscopy to investigate how chromosomes pair up during meiosis, and how “quality control” mechanisms prevent errors in this process or eliminate cells in which errors have occurred. When these protective mechanisms malfunction, reproductive cells with an incorrect number of chromosomes can result, which can lead to disorders such as Down Syndrome in humans.

Dernburg’s group also examines the process of meiotic recombination, in which genes are shuffled between chromosomes, resulting in greater genetic diversity in species that undergo sexual reproduction. Her lab has recently begun studying how physical stress within the DNA fiber may affect meiosis, and how meiosis may help to fortify genomes against mutations and other damage over evolutionary time.

Dernburg received her B.A. in Biochemistry from UC Berkeley in 1987, earned a Ph.D. at UC San Francisco, then conducted postdoctoral research at Stanford University. She first joined the Lab in 2001.

Ramamoorthy Ramesh is a member of the Materials Sciences Division and is currently serving as executive vice president of research Rice University, where he is also currently a Professor of Materials Science and Nanoengineering and of Physics and Astronomy. His work in the areas of complex oxide materials and their applications in electronics has been pivotal in advancing the understanding of ferroelectric and multiferroic materials, which are critical for developing new types of electronic and magnetic devices. His efforts to design and build chips for microelectronics out of these novel materials, using advanced nanofabrication tools, could lead to next-generation devices with greater energy efficiency.

From 2010 to 2012, Ramesh helped lead the SunShot Initiative, a national project aimed at lowering the cost of solar power to make it competitive with traditional energy inputs of the electric grid. He served as the Associate Lab Director for Berkeley Lab’s Energy Technologies Area from 2014 to 2018.

Ramesh earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Madras University, a bachelor’s degree in metallurgy from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and a master’s and Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from UC Berkeley. Ramesh has recently held the Purnendu Chatterjee Chair Professor in Materials Science and Physics at UC Berkeley, and is he is currently on leave from this role while at Rice.


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is committed to delivering solutions for humankind through research in clean energy, a healthy planet, and discovery science. Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest problems are best addressed by teams, Berkeley Lab and its scientists have been recognized with 16 Nobel Prizes. Researchers from around the world rely on the Lab’s world-class scientific facilities for their own pioneering research. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

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