OHIO STATE RESEARCHER ELECTED TO NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio State University virologist and immunologist has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
Linda Saif, a professor in the Food Animal Health Research Program and the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, was one of 72 scientists awarded membership this week by the Academy in Washington, D.C. Election to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine is considered one of the highest honors bestowed on a U.S. scientist or engineer.
Ohio State University President Karen Holbrook said, “To be named to the National Academy of Sciences is a great honor for any researcher, as it reflects the importance of the work she and her colleagues have accomplished over the years. The university recognizes Dr. Saif’s diligence and hard work. It’s this kind of dedication that makes Ohio State a world class research institution.”
Saif, who is based at the Ohio Agricultural and Research Development Center in Wooster, is known around the world for her work on enteric animal diseases – those relating to the digestive system, and specifically the intestines. She works primarily with pathogens such as rotavirus, calicivirus and coronavirus. Certain strains of the viruses can cause gastrointestinal illnesses in humans, especially children. Each year, rotavirus takes the lives of nearly 800,000 infants and young children worldwide.
Saif is an authority on coronavirus, the pathogen suspected of causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). She is one of several scientists who are helping the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention better understand – and possibly create vaccines for – SARS.
Credited with discovering the potential for enteric viral infections in animals to infect human populations in epidemic proportions, Saif also is recognized for extending the discovery process from the basic molecular biology of the virus to the interaction of the virus and host, to understanding how the host eliminates the organism, and to developing methods for detecting and controlling the organism.
She and her colleagues were the first to discover the immunologic interrelationships among various tissues of the common mucosal immune system and exploit this system to develop new approaches for vaccination.
Her nearly 30 years of research as an Ohio State scientist have shed light on the workings of particularly heinous viruses for which there are no effective vaccines. She and her colleagues at OARDC and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases were the first to isolate a human rotavirus pathogen in germ-free pigs and then grow it in a laboratory, making it far easier for scientists to learn what makes the virus tick. Current research projects include immune response to the rotavirus, rotavirus pathogenesis, DNA vaccines, enteric pathogens in oysters, pathogenesis of human caliciviruses, and effects of nutrition and waste management technologies on pathogens in animal manure.
"The College of Veterinary Medicine is deeply honored to have one of its distinguished faculty receive one of the highest honors that any scientist can achieve,” said Glen Hoffsis, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Dr. Saif is a world authority on viral infections and the immune response to these infections. Her contributions have improved the health of man and animals worldwide."
“Dr. Saif is truly an asset to the university,” said Bobby Moser, dean of the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and vice president for agricultural administration. “Not only is she making strides in learning how to control serious diseases, her research bridges the gap between applied and basic research. That’s unique, and that’s the kind of research our college wants to promote.”
Thomas J. Rosol, interim vice president for research at Ohio State and a professor of veterinary biosciences, agrees saying “Nearly 30 years of consistent advances in the field of enteric viruses have made Dr. Saif a world-renowned expert on such pathogens and the diseases they cause. That knowledge does and will continue to have a dramatic impact on human and animal health.”
Saif, said, “This is a true honor, as it reflects the advances, dedication and achievements of science. I never believed that I would be in the company of such esteemed scientists. I had the good fortune of having a dedicated advisor, Dr. Edward Bohl, as I pursued masters and doctoral degrees at Ohio State, and I still rely on and seek that kind of collaboration and pursuit of excellence with my colleagues and students today.”
She has been published extensively in books and journals and has been awarded numerous honors, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Ghent, Belgium, in 2003. She has participated in professional service and peer review panels and has garnered more than $14 million in research grants throughout her 30-plus year career. Saif is currently the principal investigator co-principal investigator on 13 research projects totaling more than $8 million in funding from organizations such as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Saif received her bachelor’s degree from the College of Wooster in 1969 and her doctorate in microbiology from Ohio State in 1976. She stayed on at the university, working as a postdoctoral researcher at OARDC and gained assistant professor status in 1979. She rose through the ranks, and in 2002 became the first Ohio State researcher not based on the Columbus campus to be recognized as a Distinguished University Professor – the highest honor the university gives its faculty.
New National Academy of Sciences Fellows are elected by current members. Members and associates are recognized for their significant and ongoing achievements in original research.
This year’s election brings the number of members and foreign associates elected to the National Academy of Sciences to 2,266, representing 11 countries. Sixteen Ohio State faculty hold membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine or the National Academy of Engineering.