Three Washington University faculty have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society.
The rank of fellow is bestowed upon members by their peers in recognition of scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. It is the highest honor awarded by AAAS.
Of the Washington University honorees, two are from the School of Medicine and one is from Arts & Sciences. They are:
Peter M.J. Burgers, PhD, the Marvin Brennecke Professor in Biological Chemistry, was elected to the Section on Biological Sciences for distinguished contributions to the fields of DNA replication and DNA damage response mechanisms. He is an internationally recognized leader in the biochemistry and genetics of DNA replication and cellular responses to DNA damage.
Burgers studies DNA metabolism in yeast cells, which have similar regulatory mechanisms to those found in human cells. He is particularly interested in the DNA replication fork, where active duplication of the genetic material takes place, and the mechanisms that come into play when that replication goes awry because of DNA damage or other stress.
He focuses his work on two aspects of these responses. One is cell cycle checkpoints, where a cell halts DNA replication until stress has been resolved or damage has been repaired, and the other is mutagenesis, where the replication machinery in the cell makes mutations as a kind of last-ditch effort to survive. Malfunctions in these replication control processes can lead to DNA instability, which can harm the cell’s ability to control its own growth and lead to cancer.
Tamara L. Doering, MD, PhD, professor of molecular microbiology and director of the Graduate Program in Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, was elected to the Section on Medical Sciences for distinguished contributions to understanding the fundamental biology of the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans.
C. neoformans causes serious infections in people with weakened immune systems, leading to more than half a million deaths per year worldwide. Doering’s lab is investigating unique aspects of cryptococcal biology with the goals of understanding basic processes and finding targets for drugs to fight C. neoformans infection.
Doering is especially interested in C. neoformans’ protective capsule, its dominant virulence factor, which is critical for the pathogen to survive in the host and cause disease. She is examining how the polysaccharidecapsule is made and regulated and how it interacts with host cells, using approaches ranging from biochemistry and cell biology to molecular biology and genome analysis.
Doering has recently begun applying high-throughput screening to these questions, which has opened new areas of research.
Fiona B. Marshall, PhD, professor of anthropology and of African & African-American studies, both in Arts & Sciences, was elected to the Section on Anthropology. She is one of the world’s pre-eminent scholars on the origins of agriculture in Africa and on donkey domestication.
Marshall is an African archaeologist whose research incorporates zooarchaeological and ethnoarchaeogical approaches to the beginnings of food production and the development of pastoralism — tending of large herds of animals — in northeast Africa.
She has focused on selection in African pastoral contexts and microevolutionary approaches to domestication of large mammals, African cattle and donkeys.
In collaboration with the Saint Louis Zoo, she is studying behavior of the African wild ass and the relationship of sociality to domestication processes.
The research of Marshall and her students also examines variation in social organization and subsistence strategies among Holocene African hunter-gatherers and early pastoralists of the Horn of Africa.
She and her students also are conducting research on pastoral land-use patterns, the role of cattle in the development of pastoral identities, development of specialized pastoralism in eastern Africa, mobile responses to climatic change and niche construction by African pastoralists and their role in the development of African savannas.
This year, the 503 members who have been named AAAS Fellows will be announced in the Jan. 28 issue of Science, published by AAAS. Fellows will be recognized Feb. 19 at the AAAS annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
An international nonprofit organization, AAAS is dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. Founded in 1848, the association includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science serving 10 million individuals.