November 1, 2002

Fellows Acknowledged for Research

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Six members of the Cornell University faculty were among 291 researchers recently named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS — a leader in encouraging scientific progress since its establishment in 1848 — is the world’s largest federation of scientists, with members in 130 countries.

The fellows are acknowledged for their work toward fulfilling the mission of the AAAS, which is “to advance science and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.”

The AAAS cited the following faculty members for their outstanding contributions: Paul L. Houston, the J.W. Debye Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Donald P. Greenberg, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Computer Graphics and professor of architecture, computer science, and management; Prof. Bruce V. Lewenstein, science communication; Prof. Quentin D. Wheeler, entomology; Prof. Bart Selman, computer science; and Jeffrey W. Roberts, the Robert J. Appel Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology.

Houston studies molecular dynamics, specifically reactions that involve light, and has focused much of his attention on the dissociation properties of ozone in the atmosphere.

He helped developed a technique that “allows us to look at chemical reactions in a different way” and now plans on applying this technique to other, non-chemical reactions.

Houston said that winning the prestigious AAAS award will “encourage me to continue in the direction which I have chosen.” It “reinforces in me the feeling that I have chosen a good topic.”

Greenberg has been on the Cornell faculty since 1968.

In 1987, Greenberg received the Coon’s Award, a computer graphics honor presented by SIGGRAPH — a non-profit, volunteer organization providing world-wide and year-round programs for the computer graphics community — said that the AAAS award validates his work in a different light. “Now that a scientific society is recognizing [computer graphics] as academically meritorious, that’s very nice to see.”

Greenberg is excited about the future of computer graphics as it relates to other disciplines. “The field is changing exponentially. I’m going to do it as long as they allow me to,” he said.

Lewenstein studies the importance of media coverage in scientific controversies, focusing on scientific journalism. Lewenstein is currently writing about the history of science books since World War II.

Lewenstein is editor of Public Understanding of Science, a quarterly academic journal, and serves as director of the New York Science Education Program, which works towards improving undergraduate science education.

Wheeler is currently serving as division director for the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation.

His studies focus on the impending crisis of the extinction of many species. A member of Cornell’s entomology department since 1980, he commended the University’s research opportunities.

“It was the first such department in the United States, and has always remained at the forefront of the field,” he said.

Wheeler recognizes the need for such organizations as the AAAS in fostering scientific endeavors.

“I would like to think that science stands or falls on its own self-evident merit, but society, including major scientific organizations like the AAAS, do play an important role,” Wheeler said.

Selman, who joined the Cornell computer science faculty in 1997, was also the recipient of a NSF Career Award and is an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow. He sees his AAAS fellowship as a “senior-level recognition” of his work, and said it “validates what [I am] doing.”

His research works to “make computers more user-friendly,” with the input of physicists, computer scientists, and psychologists, Selman explained.

Roberts has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. A professor at Cornell since 1974, his research in transcription antiterminators has helped explain why certain regulated genes are not expressed after reaching the messenger RNA step of protein synthesis.

The 291 fellows will be honored at a ceremony in February 2003 during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Denver.

Archived article by Melissa Korn