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CSHL’s Dr. Leemor Joshua-Tor Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

photo of Leemor Joshua-Tor
Professor, HHMI Investigator, and W.M. Keck Professor of Structural Biology Cancer Center Program Co-Leader Leemor Joshua-Tor.
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Cambridge, MA and Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Professor Leemor Joshua-Tor, Ph.D., of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, is among 228 newly elected members of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, it was announced today. Dr. Joshua-Tor is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

The new class of Academy members will be inducted at a ceremony on October 7, 2017, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In this 237th American Academy class are winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Wolf Prize; MacArthur Fellows; Fields Medalists; Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Arts recipients; and Academy Award, Grammy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award winners. They include immunologist James P. Allison, philanthropist and singer-songwriter John Legend, award-winning actress Carol Burnett, chairman of the board of Xerox Corporation Ursula Burns, mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, and writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Dr. Joshua-Tor studies the molecular basis of nucleic acid regulatory processes using the tools of structural biology and biochemistry. One such regulatory process is RNA interference (RNAi), in which a small double-stranded RNA triggers gene silencing. Joshua-Tor and her team offered critical insight when they solved the crystal structure of the Argonaute protein and identified it as the long-sought Slicer. They then went on to explore the mechanism of the slicing event. The structure of human Argonaute 2 (hAgo2) bound to a microRNA (miRNA) guide allowed Joshua-Tor and her colleagues to understand how mRNA is cleaved during RNAi. In other work, the lab has explored PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), which serve to protect the genome of germ cells, as well as the mechanisms of heterochromatin formation and gene silencing through the study of a protein complex called RNA-induced initiation of transcriptional gene silencing (RITS). Joshua-Tor is also well known for her work on the E1 helicase enzyme, which acts to unwind DNA strands during the DNA replication process.

“On behalf of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Board of Trustees, faculty, students and staff, I congratulate Leemor Joshua-Tor on her election to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” said CSHL President Bruce Stillman, Ph.D. “Thank you, Leemor, for your important contributions to scientific research and to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.”

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, convening leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to respond to the challenges facing—and opportunities available to—the nation and the world. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies in science, engineering, and technology policy; global security and international affairs; the humanities, arts, and education; and American institutions and the public good. Visit

Written by: Communications Department | | 516-367-8455

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About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,000 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program annually hosts more than 12,000 scientists. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and the DNA Learning Center with programs for middle, high school, and undergraduate students and teachers. For more information, visit