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January 7, 2010

Six UW researchers named Fellows of AAAS

Six UW-affiliated researchers are among 531 new Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as a Fellow of AAAS is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers. Fellows are recognized for meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications.

The new UW Fellows are:

Bonita “Bonny” J. Brewer, professor of genome sciences, studies how DNA makes a copy of itself before cell division. She investigates the timing and precision mechanisms by which each chromosomal molecule is replicated once per cell cycle. Replication of each chromosome proceeds from multiple origins with different parts of chromosomes replicating at different times during the synthesis phase of the cell cycle. Earlier in her career, Brewer developed two-dimensional gel electrophoresis techniques to locate specific replication origins and to gauge their activation efficiency. More recently Brewer and her colleagues designed methods to study replication on a genome-wide scale. They also devised a method to find single-stranded regions of chromosomes that are associated with origin activation and thereby rapidly located all of the replication origins in yeast cells. She and her colleagues hope to use this powerful technique with other species to learn how DNA replication dynamics shape genome architecture during evolution. Brewer earned a B.S. degree in biology and mathematics education at the University of Missouri and taught high school biology before receiving a doctorate in genetics from the UW.

Margaret R. Byers, research professor emeritus of anesthesiology & pain medicine and of biological structure, is noted for her major contributions to understanding the neurobiology of teeth, including her technical innovations in the study of dental tissues and groundbreaking insights into dental nerve problems, including neuropathic reactions to injury. She studies the mechanisms of peripheral sensory nerve fibers, especially those that cause pain. Much of her work concerns sensory functions in normal tissue and the response of dental nerves to injury and inflammation. She also studies anesthetics and other clinical treatments for dental pain. In addition, her lab is interested in how teeth form and innervate. Her lab also investigates the immune capabilities of tooth pulp cells and the interactions between pulp and nerves. She has been affiliated with the UW School of Dentistry for 30 years, especially in Endodontics, many of whose students and faculty members collaborated in the studies of dental and trigeminal nerves and injury reactions. She recently became an emeritus faculty member, but continues to maintain a fully active laboratory in the Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine. She is a graduate of Radcliffe College of Harvard University, and earned her doctoral degree in anatomy from Harvard.

William A. Catterall, professor and chair of pharmacology, is interested in the electrical impulses that nerve, skeletal muscle, and heart muscle generate, and this led to his discovery of the sodium and calcium channel proteins and to additional findings on their structure, function, and regulation. Sodium and calcium channels initiate nerve transmission and muscle contraction, and are integral to information processing, memory and learning. Catterall studies anesthetics, heart rhythm drugs, and other medications that alter sodium and calcium channel function. His lab also investigates genetic disorders of sodium and calcium channels, including childhood epilepsy and periodic paralysis, in a search for new therapies. He is a graduate of Brown University and earned a Ph.D. in physiological chemistry from Johns Hopkins.

Michael Gelb, the Harry and Catherine Jaynne Boand Endowed Professor of Chemistry, graduated from the University of California, Davis, before earning a doctorate from Yale University in 1982. He joined the UW faculty in 1985, and his research has focused on enzyme systems important in human diseases. In the late 1980s, the Gelb laboratory, along with John Glomset in UW Medicine, discovered a new type of protein modification called prenylation. The Gelb laboratory also has helped define the role of enzymes called phospholipases A2 in inflammatory diseases, including asthma and arthritis. A third area of research in the Gelb laboratory is developing mass spectrometry to screen newborns for inborn errors of metabolism. These assays are now being used in newborn screening laboratories worldwide.

M. Elizabeth “Betz” Halloran, professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health, and a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center member in the Biostatistics and Biomathematics Program, Public Health Sciences Division, is recognized for her innovative designs and statistical methods for evaluating vaccines in the field. Her research encompasses a wide range of quantitative methods applied to the study of infectious diseases. In addition to design of vaccine studies, she has created mathematical models for other infectious disease interventions, including real-time statistical evaluations for emerging diseases, and for genomic approaches to understanding the immune system and its response to pathogens. Because she and her colleagues have created predictive models of the spread of influenza, this past year they were called upon frequently to explain the pandemic movement of the H1N1 flu virus. She is part of the national Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) network that uses computer models of influenza and other infectious diseases to advise the U.S. government and international agencies on intervention choices. Halloran is a graduate of the University of Oregon in Eugene, and earned an M.D. degree from the Freie Universitat Berlin in Germany, and an M.P.H. in tropical public health and a D.Sc. in population sciences, both from the Harvard School of Public Health.

John D. Scott, the Edwin G. Krebs-Hilma Speights Professor of Pharmacology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, is recognized for his work on how living cells receive, send and act upon signals. He is keenly interested in anchoring proteins: the highly organized message coordinators that not only hold cell enzymes in place, but also bring together molecules that start and stop signals. He has linked the overproduction of certain anchoring proteins with problems such as enlarged hearts. He received his B.SC. degree in biochemistry from Herriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, and his doctorate from the University of Aberdeen. He did postdoctoral research on protein kinases with the late UW Nobel Laureate Edwin G. Krebs.

AAAS is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. In addition to organizing membership activities, AAAS publishes the journal Science, as well as many scientific newsletters, books and reports, and spearheads programs that raise the bar of understanding for science worldwide.

The new Fellows will be recognized for their contributions to science and technology at the Fellows Forum to be held on Feb. 20 during the AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego. They will receive a certificate and a blue and gold rosette as a symbol of their distinguished accomplishments.