Frederick J. Sigworth, Ph.D., professor of cellular and molecular physiology, and of biomedical engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in recognition of his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

He is among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 14 countries selected for membership. The new members were announced May 3. Election to membership in the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be afforded to a U.S. scientist or engineer.

Sigworth’s research unravels the workings of ion channel proteins, the “molecular machines” that switch on and off electrical currents that are carried by ions across biological membrane proteins. His lab at Yale is pursuing new approaches to obtain 3D structures of these proteins.

According to Sigworth, ion channels have a special significance to multiple areas of inquiry. They are best known, he notes, for their role in the electrical activity of nerve cells, but diabetes medications, novocaine and anti-epileptic drugs, as well as snake and spider toxins, all act on ion channels. Such disorders as cystic fibrosis, cardiac arrhythmias, and certain forms of hypertension and kidney disease all arise from ion channel defects.

Steven M. Girvin, Ph.D., deputy provost for science and technology, says Sigworth’s work advancing new methods in electron microscopy is an example of “the depth and breadth of scientific inquiry going on at Yale.”

Sigworth will be formally inducted at next year’s NAS annual meeting. The NAS is a private, nonprofit institution established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Its charge is providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters that are related to science and technology.