Nine WashU faculty elected to AAAS

Nine faculty members at Washington University in St. Louis are among the 502 new fellows selected by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the most distinct honors in the scientific community.

The 2023 class includes: Deanna Barch, Laura Bierut, Kendall Blumer, Andreas Burkhalter, Jennifer Heemstra, Kathleen McDermott, Jeffrey Miner, Camillo Padoa-Schioppa and David Perlmutter.

It is also the 150th year of the AAAS Fellows program, and this year’s class will be celebrated at a ceremony Sept. 21 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and featured in the April issue of the journal Science.

Deanna Barch

Headshot of Deanna Barch

Barch is the vice dean of research and a professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine. In addition, she is co-director of the Cognitive Control and Psychopathology Laboratory.

Barch studies the interplay between cognition, emotion and brain function to better understand and treat schizophrenia and depression along with using neuroscience tools such as MRI to examine the neural basis for development of schizophrenia and other mood disorders. She and colleagues look at the biological mechanisms of adolescent brain development through the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study and investigate how early adversity (poverty, stress, and health care access disparity) shape early brain development and subsequent risk for mental health challenges.

Laura J. Bierut


Bierut, MD, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine, is being honored for her leadership in psychiatric medicine in recognizing the need for a precision approach to the evaluation and management of addictive behaviors. She has conducted extensive research on factors related to the misuse of alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs and has led several national consortium studies of addiction genetics.

Her research has helped determine that genetic variants influence how much people tend to smoke, as well as which people who smoke are the most likely to develop lung cancer. Other work has identified genetic variants that can help predict whether people will respond to medication to help them quit smoking. Her work laid the foundation for smoking-cessation programs tailored to smokers’ genetics.

Kendall Blumer

Blumer headshot

Kendall J. Blumer, a professor of cell biology and physiology at the School of Medicine, is being honored for his contributions to understanding G protein signaling and discoveries about inhibition of an overreactive G protein — G alpha q — that causes uveal melanoma, an aggressive and deadly cancer arising from pigmented cells of the eye. Genetic errors in uveal melanoma permanently activate G alpha q.

Blumer’s work has discovered how to shut off overactive G alpha q in uveal melanoma, providing a new therapeutic approach currently under investigation in clinical trials.

Andreas Burkhalter

Burkhalter headshot

Burkhalter, a professor of neuroscience, is being recognized for his foundational work on the anatomy of the visual system. He has helped define the neuronal network of the mouse visual cortex and demonstrated that it shares fundamental similarities to the primate visual cortex, a discovery that makes possible new ways of investigating the active process of visual perception, decision-making and how they lead to action. Most behaviors are tied to vision, including movement, identifying objects and social interactions.

The faculties for generating these behaviors emerge from communications between multiple specialized processing centers distributed across the brain. Burkhalter’s research has helped define how the various modules and functional areas of the visual cortex work together to create a unified representation of the world and how it is shaped by knowledge of the past to guide behavior.

Kathleen McDermott


McDermott is a professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences. She studies human memory encoding and retrieval along with using fMRI techniques to study how those processes interact.

In her Memory and Cognition lab, McDermott explores how memory is used when thinking about upcoming events and why attempting to retrieve recently experienced information enables a person to better remember that information in the future.

McDermott is also co-creator of the false memory paradigm now known as the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm. She is a fellow of the Psychonomic Society and the Association for Psychological Science.

Jennifer Heemstra


Heemstra is the Charles Allen Thomas Professor of Chemistry and chair of chemistry in Arts & Sciences. Heemstra is a highly regarded researcher whose work focuses on harnessing the molecular recognition and self-assembly properties of nucleic acids for applications in biosensing and bioimaging. She is also a part of a national consortium of scientists and students charting a path for inclusive science.

Heemstra and her team are developing new chemical and biological tools to track the location and modification of RNA in living cells. Understanding RNA editing and its pivotal role in cellular function is important for new applications in clinical diagnostics and drug discovery — particularly those that target infectious diseases, neurological disorders and certain types of cancer linked to dysfunctional RNA editing.

Jeffrey H. Miner

Jeff Miner

Jeffrey H. Miner, the Eduardo and Judith Slatopolsky Professor of Medicine in Nephrology at the School of Medicine, is being honored for his contributions to understanding kidney function through investigation of genetic diseases. Also a professor of cell biology and physiology, Miner’s research focuses on the glomerular basement membrane, which serves as a component of the kidney’s filtration system responsible for ridding wastes from the body.

Specifically, Miner studies how proteins in the basement membrane are impacted in genetic diseases, such as Pierson and Alport syndromes. Both are rare conditions that usually cause kidney failure. Miner also has studied cystic kidney disease and urogenital development. He uncovered, in mice, protein deficiencies that can lead to congenital anomalies of the kidneys and urinary tract system.

Camillo Padoa-Schioppa

Padoa-Scioppa headshot

Padoa-Schioppa, a professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine, as well as of economics and of biomedical engineering, is recognized for pioneering work on deciphering the neuronal circuits underlying decision-making. His research has focused on economic choices, those made by assigning value to each option. In 2006, he published a groundbreaking paper in Nature describing the discovery of neurons that encode the subjective value of offered and chosen goods.

These neurons were found in the orbitofrontal cortex, an area of the brain just above the eyes. In 2020, he followed up with another Nature paper showing that the activity of these neurons is causally linked to choices. Together, the studies describe the neurological process of computing and comparing values that occurs during economic decision-making. This discovery could help scientists understand how decision-making goes wrong in people with conditions such as addiction, eating disorders, major depression and schizophrenia.

David Perlmutter

Dean Perlmutter headshot

David H. Perlmutter, MD, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor, is being honored for distinguished contributions to research on alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (ATD), a genetic disorder in which accumulating misfolded proteins damage the liver. His work has led to the development of drugs that could eliminate the need for liver transplantation in individuals with the disorder.

The drugs target autophagy, the cellular recycling system that disposes of misfolded proteins. Because autophagy is a critical pathway that affects the health of all cells but declines with age, such drugs have the potential to slow age-dependent degenerative diseases of the liver, heart and nervous system.

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