(From Left to Right) Newly recognized AAAS fellows Prof. Amanda Rodewald, Prof. Christine Smart, Prof. Daniel Barbash, Prof. Jessica Tyler and Prof. Thomas Seeley.

November 28, 2017

Five Cornell Faculty Members Recognized by World’s Largest Integrative Scientific Society

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Five Cornell faculty members were among the 39 researchers announced as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last month.

The AAAS — a major publisher of advanced research and discoveries through its scientific journals — serves as the world’s largest integrative scientific society. 91 countries are currently represented through individual memberships in the AAAS.

Building on the association’s belief that science, technology, engineering and mathematics can solve the challenges faced by society, fellows are chosen based on their efforts to advance science or its applications in service to society.

The AAAS recognized Cornell faculty members for their distinguished research in fields, which range from conservation science to neurobiology and behaviour.

Prof. Daniel Barbash, molecular biology and genetics, studies the genetics and molecular evolution of interspecific hybrid incompatibilities, molecular evolution of germ-line genes, and transposable element dynamics.

His research has “identified some of the genetic mechanisms that isolate species from one another, which is an important part of the process of speciation,” he said

In the future, Barbash said he intends on discovering whether the DNA in animal genomes that do not code for proteins has any biological role.

“We are currently identifying variation in this type of DNA among individuals, for both fruit flies and humans,” Barbash said. “We are then further testing experimentally for possible effects of this variation, including for possible effects on chromosome segregation.”

Amanda Rodewald, the Garvin professor of ornithology and director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Department of Natural Resources, said she is excited to continue her research with staff and students in the Conservation Science program at the Lab of Ornithology.

“I was very honored to be recognized both for my scientific contributions and for science communication and advising,” she said.

“My research integrates basic and applied sciences to understand how human activities and global change influence ecological communities, animal populations, and ecosystem services,” said Rodewald in an email to The Sun. “We work hard to ensure that our efforts make a real difference for people and for the environment because we recognize that the two are closely intertwined.”

Prof. Thomas Seeley, the Horace White professor in biology in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, who joined the Cornell faculty in 1986, has devoted a majority of his studies to understanding the phenomenon of swarm intelligence and how a group is optimally structured to possess the capability.

Currently, his main research interest is conservation biology. Seeley said he hopes to help beekeepers develop sustainable, pesticide-free approaches to beekeeping through his investigations.

Prof. Christine Smart, plant pathology, and director of the School of Integrative Plant Science, has worked to increase the understanding of pathogen biology and diversity under field conditions. She said the goal of her research is to improve growers’ vegetable disease management strategies “to help reduce diseases and increase crop yields.”

The AAAS specifically recognized Jessica Tyler, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, for her contributions to the field of epigenetics. Her examinations of genome activity and aging have high implications.

Her research proposes that the lifespan of human cells can be expanded and could prevent age-related diseases.

On Feb. 17, the 396 fellows who were recognized by the Association will be honored with a rosette pin at the AAAS annual meeting in Austin, Texas.