April 29, 1999
Bruce Hammock, a professor of entomology, is one of 60 new U.S. members elected to the academy along with 15 foreign associates. A total of 13 new members were elected from the University of California, including six from UC Berkeley, three from UCLA, two from UC San Francisco and one each from UC Irvine and UC Davis.
Members are elected to the academy based on the originality and quality of their entire body of scientific research, rather than on a single achievement. With Hammock's election, UC Davis NAS members now number 18.
"Dr. Hammock has deserved NAS membership for some years now," said UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. "He does rock-solid fundamental research that clearly benefits the human condition and the quality of our environment."
Hammock, 51, has been a member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980. His research has delved into basic questions of biology and biochemistry that have practical implications for improving both human and environmental health. His work is currently focused on three areas: finding improved pest control agents; determining the human health effects of pesticides, food additives and drugs; and developing rapid analytical methods for detecting environmental and food contaminants.
In developing new types of pest controls, he has been studying natural agents, such as viruses, that can act as pesticides. For example, Hammock and colleagues genetically engineered insect-specific viruses so that the virus would interfere with the growth and development of certain caterpillars that feed on agricultural crops.
In his second area of research, Hammock studies "xenobiotics" -- potentially harmful synthetic or naturally occurring chemicals, including pesticides and drugs, to which humans are exposed. In order to predict the toxic risk of human exposure to these chemicals, his laboratory is studying various enzymes in the liver that are important in breaking down the chemicals to eliminate toxicity. The researchers have worked on understanding how enzymes work so that their activity could be altered to make improved pharmaceuticals.
Hammock also has done pioneering work in using "immunochemical" methods to detect pesticides, food contaminants and industrial compounds in food, the environment and humans. The technology has been approved in the United States and Europe and is being used in developing countries to improve their food supplies.
Hammock, a native of Little Rock, Ark., earned a bachelor's degree in entomology from Louisiana State University in 1969 and a doctoral degree in entomology/toxicology at UC Berkeley in 1973, and was a Rockefeller Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University. He worked at UC Riverside for six years before coming to UC Davis. In addition to maintaining a vigorous research program, Hammock teaches, mentors students, works with visiting scholars and enjoys rock climbing and kayaking.
He has received numerous academic awards, including in 1995 the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Award, presented annually to an individual considered to have made the most significant contributions to U.S. agriculture in the previous five years. He also received the $250,000 Burroughs Wellcome Toxicology Scholar Award from the Society of Toxicology in 1987 and the Frasch Foundation Award in Agricultural Chemistry in 1982.
The National Academy of Sciences, established by congressional charter in 1863, serves as an advisory board on scientific issues to the federal government. (Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service)
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology