AAAS honors six Iowa State researchers for distinguished work advancing science

AMES, Iowa – The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is recognizing six Iowa State University researchers for their contributions to statistics, bioinformatics, plant biology, crop improvement, astrophysics and plant pathology.

The researchers are among this year’s class of 391 new AAAS fellows, the association announced today. The recognition is bestowed on association members by their peers and recognizes scientifically or socially distinguished work to advance science or its applications.

Iowa State’s new AAAS fellows are:

Alicia Carriquiry

Alicia Carriquiry, Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences in statistics and director of the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensics Evidence, “For outstanding scholarship in science, leadership across a diverse collection of professional societies, and bringing distinguished statistical insights to scientific advisory committees and panels.”

Carriquiry researches the interface of statistics and subjects that include human nutrition, forensic science, genomics and traffic engineering. The methods for evaluating food and nutrient intake information that Carriquiry and her colleagues have proposed are in use worldwide. Carriquiry recently became director of the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence and is developing the statistical foundation for pattern and digital forensic evidence.

Xun Gu

Xun Gu, professor of genetics, development and cell biology, “For distinguished contributions to the field of computational molecular evolution and bioinformatics, particularly for developing statistical theory and methods for comparative genomics and evolution.”

Gu’s current research is to integrate genome big data, high throughput computing and principles of genome evolution into a unified framework. That may have broad applications in various biological fields, including plant and animal domestication, evolutionary medicine and certain cancer mutations.

Stephen Howell

Stephen Howell, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences in genetics, development and cell biology, “For distinguished contributions to the field of plant biology with emphasis on identifying mechanisms of viral gene expression and pathways regulating responses to environmental stresses.”

Howell’s lab is studying the effect of climate change on plants; in particular, how plants respond to and tolerate adverse environmental conditions.

Guru Rao

Guru Rao, associate vice president for research and professor in the Roy J. Carver department of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, “For distinguished contributions to the field of crop improvement, particularly nutritionally enhanced crops, through a synergistic combination of fundamental mechanistic biochemistry, protein engineering and proteomics.”

Rao’s laboratory uses biochemical and biophysical tools to establish a fundamental molecular understanding of functions of genes and proteins involved in plant growth and development. These studies are expected to provide key insights into strategies to produce grain for food, feed and renewable fuels; add traits to benefit society; and identify genes to increase agricultural yields by breeding crops that are adaptable to a variety of climatic conditions.

Curtis Struck

Curtis Struck, professor of physics and astronomy, “For distinguished contributions to astrophysics, particularly in modeling the dynamics of colliding galaxies and applications to observations of star formation in interacting galaxies.”

Struck’s research focuses on the theory and numerical modeling of a variety of processes in the evolution of galaxies and large-scale cosmic structures. Recent work includes studies of the role of scattering processes on the universal structure of galaxy disks, and how interactions between galaxies drive waves which induce star formation in galaxies. He has also worked for many years on computer modeling of galaxy collisions to help interpret observations from the Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra X-ray space telescopes.

Steven Whitham

Steven Whitham, professor of plant pathology and microbiology, “For distinguished contributions to the field of plant pathology, namely for plant-microbial interactions in soybean and corn and for the isolation of the N resistance gene.”

Whitham’s research group studies the networks of plant and pathogen genes that determine whether a plant becomes diseased or successfully defends itself. The group is particularly interested in viral and fungal pathogens that cause diseases in soybeans and corn. The group also develops new technologies based on plant viruses that enable researchers to more rapidly assess the functions of genes in corn and soybean plants.

The new AAAS fellows will be announced in the Nov. 25 issue of the journal Science and honored on Feb. 18 at the AAAS meeting in Boston. AAAS members can be nominated for the honor by the steering groups of the association’s 24 sections, by any three fellows or by the association’s chief executive officer.

The tradition of AAAS fellows dates back to 1874.

The AAAS was founded in 1848 and is the world’s largest general scientific society. The association publishes the journal Science and several other scientific journals.