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Johnston to Become Genetics Society President

Michael C. Purdy

Dec. 1, 2003 – Mark Johnston, PhD, professor and interim chair of genetics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, will become president of the Genetics Society of America (GSA) on Jan. 1, 2004. Johnston, who has been serving as the vice president of the approximately 4,000-member society this year, will have a one-year term as president.

"It's a tremendously exciting time to be a geneticist, particularly in light of the recent completion of the Human Genome Project," Johnston says. "The genetics society is doing some creative thinking about what we can do to help our members take advantage of the advances in science that have happened in the last decade."

Johnston, who studies how cells sense and respond to changes in their environment, says the core membership of the society is comprised of researchers who use several key model organisms to study normal and dysfunctional genetic processes. The GSA helps members by lobbying the government for continued support of basic research, securing discounted supplies and encouraging and facilitating the sharing of genetic information.

"In addition to the services we provide our members, the GSA also publishes Genetics, which has long been the premiere journal in the field," Johnston says.

The society also works to preserve the legacy of genetics by supporting, among other projects, production of an oral history of the field composed of interviews with noted geneticists and the restoration of the gardens of Gregor Mendel, a European monk who established the field of genetics with his studies of inheritance patterns of traits in pea plants.

The GSA recognizes important scientific contributions by geneticists through three annual awards. It also sponsors annual or semiannual meetings on genetics research into model organisms such as yeast, roundworms, algae and fruit flies.

Johnston was nominated for and elected to GSA office in 2002. After his presidency ends in 2005, he will serve on the board of the organization for a year as past president.