University of Rochester

Four Rochester Professors Named Fellows of American Association for the Advancement of Science

December 1, 2006

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest federation of scientists, has elected four scientists from the University of Rochester as fellows. John Jaenike, Michael K. Tanenhaus, Lynne E. Maquat, and Henry A. Kautz were honored for the advances they've brought to their respective fields. The new fellows will be presented with a certificate at the Fellows Forum during the 2006 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco on Feb. 17, 2007.

Jaenike, professor and chair of the Department of Biology, was elected for "distinguished contributions to the field of ecological genetics, particularly the ecology and genetics of parasite-host interactions." Jaenike works to understand how parasite-host symbiosis affects evolution. He recently published research outlining one of the most far-reaching genetic effects of a parasite yet known. A parasite known as Wolbachia infects 20 percent of the world's insect species, altering their reproductive behavioróbut Jaenike showed evidence that Wolbachia has begun to influence insect species it does not infect. The work shows that parasites may be a much more influential part of life's evolution than anyone previously believed.

Maquat, the Dean's Endowed Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, was nominated "for discovery and characterization of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay." Most recently her work has focused on how human cells protect themselves from constant and potentially destructive changes in gene expression through an RNA-mediated mechanism. According to a recently published article, her team's research is important because the protection itself can contribute to disease, and the ability to side-step it may lead to new treatments for hundreds of genetic disorders.

Tanenhaus, professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, was honored for "his remarkable demonstrations of the highly interactive nature of language processing, and for his innovations in methods of studying language processing that have altered the field." Tanenhaus focuses on the mechanisms underlying real-time spoken language and reading comprehension. Much of his research looks at how we resolve ambiguity in listening or reading as we develop interpretations before we've reached the ends of words, phrases, or sentences. By watching people react as they hear spoken instructions, Tanenhaus hopes to shed light on how the brain processes information.

Kautz, a professor in the Department of Computer Science, will continue his path-breaking research in the field of computational cognition science. He will also help the University establish a new center for artificial intelligence, concentrating the University's current strengths in this area. His work will likely span the University campuses, bringing together computer science in the College and neuroscience in the Medical Center.

Founded in 1848, AAAS works to advance science for human well-being through its more than 138,000 members. The tradition of honoring those members who have excelled in their chosen fields began in 1874. AAAS publishes the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Science.