Neurobiologist Becomes First Transgender Scientist Selected For U.S. National Academy of Science Membership

Neurobiologist Becomes First Transgender Scientist Selected For U.S. National Academy of Science Membership

The National Academy of Sciences recently conferred membership on Ben Barres, MD, PhD, a neurobiologist who happens to be a transgender man.

Barres is a leading light in the study of glial cells (collectively known as glia), the 90 percent of all the cells in the brain that aren’t nerve cells. (Read more about Barres’ work here: The Brain’s Silent Majority: How the Other 90 Percent of Your Brain Works.)

“We don’t know if other members past or present are or were transgender,” demurs an NAS representative. And after all, how would they? But it’s a pretty safe bet that if any previously admitted NAS member were openly transgender, we’d have heard about it. (Computer scientist Lynn Conway, a trans woman, was admitted to the National Academy of Engineering in 1989.)

In science, if anywhere, diverse perspectives drive innovation. ”Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad about being different,” Barres tells young scientists. “Your difference is your greatest advantage.”

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