AAAS Names Scripps Oceanography Scientists as New Fellows


Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Ron Burton and Jean-Bernard Minster are among six professors at UC San Diego to be named 2013 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation’s largest general science organization.

Burton and Minster were among 388 individuals honored by colleagues in their disciplines for their “efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.”

The new fellows, who were announced by the association this week, will be presented with official certificates and gold and blue rosette pins on Feb. 15 at the 2014 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Burton, a professor of marine biology, was selected for “distinguished contributions to molecular ecology, speciation, and evolutionary genetics of natural populations of marine organisms.” His research on copepods, crabs, sea urchins, abalone, and fish integrates several approaches to study patterns of dispersal and adaptation to environmental changes in the sea and the mechanisms underlying the formation of new species. The former head of the Biology Section and the Marine Biology Research Division at Scripps, Burton also examines the relationships between molecular genetics and physiological variation within species.

Minster, a distinguished professor of geophysics in the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) at Scripps, researches a broad range of geophysical processes, including plate tectonics, space geodesy, seismology studies and earthquake prediction, and nuclear test-ban treaty verification. Minster is well known for his development of quantitative models of plate motions and for advancing the scientific understanding of plate deformation. Minster is past chair of the San Diego division of the University of California Academic Senate, and current chair of the International Council for Science World Data System Scientific Committee. Not only was Minster cited by AAAS for his work in geophysics research, but also for “community leadership and teaching the next generation of geophysicists.”

The other new AAAS Fellows at UC San Diego are:

• Seth Cohen, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, “for distinguished contributions in the field of inorganic chemistry, particularly in small molecule inhibitors of metalloproteins in biology and disease, and metal-organic framework materials.” Cohen is a leader in the design, synthesis, and evaluation of inhibitors of metalloproteins—protein molecules, such as hemoglobin, that require metal ions for their function. A number of metalloproteins are associated with diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer to anthrax infections. Using fundamental principles of inorganic chemistry, Cohen and his colleagues have developed inhibitors that better target the metal active sites of these proteins.

• Bing Ren, professor of cellular and molecular medicine in the School of Medicine and a member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, “for outstanding original contributions to the analysis of genome-wide distributions of regulatory factors, and of the large scale organization of eukaryotic genomes.” Ren specializes in “epigenetics,” the study of the fundamental mechanisms that control gene expression in mammalian cells. More specifically, he investigates how the genome’s non-coding regions inform genes about what to do and when during development, throughout life, and how variants and dysfunction contribute to human diseases.

• Shankar Subramaniam, bioengineering professor in the Jacobs School of Engineering and Joan and Irwin Jacobs Professor in Bioengineering and Systems Biology, “for unique and outstanding contributions at the interface of engineering, life sciences, and informatics, particularly in applications to systems biology and medicine.” Traditionally, in biology, researchers looked at individual parts — molecules, tissues, physical measures such as cholesterol, or individual physiology readouts like systolic and diastolic pressures. In contrast, engineers are trained to look at how components integrate to give systems-level behavior. UC San Diego researchers, including Subramaniam, were some of the first to bring rigorous principles of engineering and systems-level thinking to the study of biology and medicine.

• Mark Thiemens, dean of the Division of Physical Sciences and distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, “for distinguished contributions in a wide range of topics, particularly for pioneering work in atmospheric chemistry, solar system evolution, quantum chemistry, and discovery of the mass-independent isotope effect for ozone.” Thiemens is an atmospheric chemist. The chemical techniques he and his colleagues developed in the laboratory have been used to probe a wide variety of problems—from particulate and ozone pollution in the atmosphere to climate change to questions about the prospects of life on Mars and the origin and evolution of life on earth.

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