Five UIC researchers recognized as AAAS fellows
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, recognizes individuals as AAAS fellows for their advances of science applications that are regarded as scientifically or socially distinguished. Of the 443 fellows this year, four were awarded to researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
UIC researchers elected as AAAS fellows are Isabel Cruz, professor of computer science in the College of Engineering; Thomas Park, professor and associate department head of biological sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Nissim Hay, distinguished professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics in the College of Medicine; David Ucker, professor of microbiology and immunology in the College of Medicine; and Maria Varelas, professor of science education and chair of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education.
Cruz was honored for her distinguished contributions to visual query languages, information integration and visualization, geospatial computing and for professional leadership in the data management community. She is a founder of the International Semantic Web Conference, has been the program chair of the main conferences in her fields of expertise, served on the Mapping Science Committee of the National Academies, and was elected to the National Science Foundation EarthCube Leadership Council in 2019.
Hay was elected a fellow for breakthroughs in understanding the role of protein kinase B, or Akt, in the fields of cell survival and growth, cancer and diabetes at the cellular and organismal levels. Some of his groundbreaking work demonstrated how Akt could be exploited as an Achilles’ heel in cancer cells to selectively kill them.
AAAS recognized Park for his discoveries in the fields of neuroscience and neuroethology, particularly for revealing and popularizing novel phenomena in the naked mole-rat. Park has shown that the naked mole-rat has immunity to certain types of pain and can live in acidic environments. His research provides insights into potential pain relief medications that are not addictive.
Ucker was elected for his outstanding contributions to the field of developmental cell biology, particularly the study of physiological cell death and the post-mortem attributes of dead cells. Ucker’s research characterized the different immune responses between physiological cell death, a natural process, and pathological cell death, an accidental process triggered by infection or toxins. His research contributed to the understanding of how cell death activates pathological inflammation responses, which may provide answers to life-saving interventions.
Varelas was recognized for her distinguished contributions to the field of science education, particularly through research that identified equitable teaching practices for learners in urban settings. Varelas has led several partnerships, including Science Education for Excellence and Equity in Chicago to develop community-responsive urban science teachers and leaders. She also led the Science Theater for Advancing Generative Engagement to cultivate students’ science learning and identity construction.
New fellows will be honored at the 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting in February.
Written by Natasha Wadlington