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Environmental Factor, February 2013

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Grantees elected fellows of AAAS

By Eddy Ball

Michael Aschner, Ph.D.

AAAS Fellow Aschner is shown in his lab. (Photo courtesy of Michael Aschner)

Richard S. Pollenz, Ph.D.

AAAS Fellow Pollenz (Photo courtesy of Richard S. Pollenz)

Alvaro Puga, Ph.D.

AAAS Fellow Puga (Photo courtesy of Alvaro Puga)

Michael Skinner, Ph.D.

AAAS Fellow Skinner (Photo courtesy of Washington State University)

John Stamatoyannopoulos, M.D.

AAAS Fellow Stamatoyannopoulos is shown in his lab. (Photo courtesy of John Stamatoyannopoulos)

Five NIEHS grantees will be among new fellows honored this year by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The scientists, who were elected as fellows in the Biological Sciences and Pharmaceutical Sciences sections, will receive a certificate and rosette Feb. 16 in Boston, during the AAAS Fellows Forum, which is part of the group’s annual meeting .

AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publishes the journal Science. Founded in 1848, the society includes more than 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving about 10 million individuals. A nonprofit organization, the society is open to all, and fulfills its mission to advance science and serve society through initiatives in science policy, international programs, and science education.

The 2012 AAAS Fellows include the following distinguished scientists who enjoy support by NIEHS:

  • Michael Aschner, Ph.D., was commended for distinguished contributions to the field of toxicology, particularly research on the mechanisms of metal in induced neurotoxicity. An NIEHS grantee since 1989, Aschner is professor of pediatrics and pharmacology and Gray E. B. Stahlman Chair in Neurosciences at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

    Aschner’s laboratory focuses on the role of astrocytes in brain physiology and pathology, addressing the mechanisms of transport of methylmercury and manganese across the capillaries composing the blood-brain barrier, as well as their cellular and molecular mechanisms of neurotoxicity. Other studies address the basic interaction between genetics and environmental exposure to these metals in C. elegans and rodents.

  • Richard S. Pollenz, Ph.D., was singled out for distinguished contributions to the field of molecular toxicology, particularly for advances in understanding aryl hydrocarbon receptor signal transduction at the protein level. An NIEHS grantee since 1997, Pollenz is a professor, associate dean for undergraduate studies, and director of the Office for Undergraduate Research at the University of South Florida.

    In addition to his bench research, he has developed innovative strategies to enhance undergraduate research, including an initiative that allowed 600 students to receive research experience through their coursework in 2012, and has received awards for innovations in teaching for the use of music and karaoke to understand key science concepts.

  • Alvaro Puga, Ph.D., was named an AAAS Fellow for his contributions to the field of environmental genetics. Puga is a professor in the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine’s top-ranked environmental health department and an associate director for the UC Center for Environmental Genetics. An NIEHS grantee since 1996, he is considered by colleagues in his field to be the pioneer in the use of molecular biology to study the biological responses to toxic insult.

    Puga was honored by the UC Department of Environmental Health with the Director’s Award for Excellence in Research, as well as with faculty and teaching awards from his department and the UC College of Medicine.

  • Michael Skinner, Ph.D., was recognized for his distinguished contributions to mammalian reproduction and environmental epigenetics, and discovering environmental effects on gonadal development causing epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of adult-onset disease with potential impacts in medicine and evolution.

    Skinner is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University and an NIEHS grantee since 2005. He established, and has been the director of, the Washington State University and University of Idaho Center for Reproductive Biology, one of the largest reproductive sciences research centers in the world, since its inception in 1996. He also established and was the director of the Center for Integrated Biotechnology until 2008.

  • John Stamatoyannopoulos, M.D., was honored for his contributions to the field of genome sciences. He is an associate professor of genome sciences and medicine at the University of Washington and an NIEHS grantee since 2008.

    Stamatoyannopoulos made several major contributions to the ENCODE project, an international effort to understand the regulatory elements of the human genome. He developed powerful techniques for mapping these complex control networks, which turn out to have patterns similar to those found in primitive brains. Through a greater understanding of the role of genome regulators generated in his lab, new ways of looking at the causes and progression of disease are likely to emerge.

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