Six UF researchers named 2019 AAAS Fellows

Six researchers from across the University of Florida have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.

UF’s new Fellows include:

  • Senthold Asseng, a professor with department of agricultural and biological engineering in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who specializes in agricultural systems modeling. Asseng concentrates his research on the effects climate change and climate variability may have on global crop production and food security. A longtime co-leader of the international effort known as Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, he also directs the UF/IFAS-based Florida Climate Institute. Asseng was elected to the AAAS Section on Agriculture, Food and Renewable Resources.
  • Karen Garrett, a professor with UF/IFAS’ plant pathology department, for distinguished contributions to the field of plant pathology and food systems, particularly for modeling pathogen epidemics to guide management strategies for sustainable food production. Garrett’s studies inform more effective local and regional management of invasive species, including adaptation to risk under climate change. In addition to her plant pathology position, Garrett is a professor with the UF/IFAS Institute for Sustainable Food Systems. Garrett was elected to the AAAS Section on Agriculture, Food and Renewable Resources.
  • Abdelsalam (Sumi) Helal, a professor in the Computer & Information Science & Engineering department in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, for distinguished contributions to the field of pervasive computing, particularly in assistive environments supportive of aging and independent living. Helal, an IEEE Fellow and Finland Distinguished Professor, was named to the AAAS Section on Information, Computing and Communication.
  • Wayne Nicholson, a professor with UF/IFAS’ department of microbiology and cell science, for distinguished and unique contributions to the fields of astrobiology and space biology. Nicholson investigates the possibility that microbial life forms can be transferred across space by asteroids or meteors. His studies have demonstrated that the bacterium Bacillus subtilis is capable of surviving extreme environmental conditions, lending support to the theory that it could withstand space travel and form colonies after arriving at new destinations. His findings have helped demonstrate how rocky debris from Venus, Earth or Mars could have been hurled into space from relatively low-impact meteorite strikes billions of years ago, and that microbes might have been transferred from one planet to another during the early history of our solar system. Nicholson, who is based at the Florida Space Life Sciences Laboratory in Merritt Island, was named to the AAAS Section on Biological Sciences. 
  • Lawrence Page, Florida Museum curator of fishes and a University of Florida adjunct professor, for his distinguished contributions to the understanding of the systematics, evolution and ecology of freshwater fishes and to the conservation of freshwater ecosystems. Page, who is also a fellow of the American Fisheries Society, has illuminated the evolutionary relationships of fish species and was the principal investigator on National Science Foundation-funded projects to inventory all freshwater fishes. He also served as director of the NSF-funded iDigBio project, which helps digitize the nation’s natural history collections and currently provides open-access data and images of more than 120 million biological specimens. Page was named to the AAAS Section on Biological Sciences.
  • Douglas Soltis, curator of systematics at the Florida Museum and distinguished professor in the department of biology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was recognized for his advances in the study of plant evolution, using genomic and big data approaches to construct relationships among the major lineages of flowering plants. Soltis, a National Academy of Sciences member, researches the origin and evolution of flowering plants, plant genome evolution and the relationships between plants. He works on NSF- and Department of Energy-funded efforts to build and better understand the Tree of Life, a map of the evolutionary relationships between every organism on the planet. Soltis has also initiated outreach projects to help increase public understanding of the interconnectedness of all life on Earth.​ Soltis was elected to the AAAS Section on Biological Sciences.

Prospective AAAS Fellows are nominated from the AAAS general membership and elected via a process that is finalized by the AAAS Council, the organization’s member-elected governing body. The new Fellows bring UF’s total to 52.

“Being elected a Fellow of AAAS is one of the most significant honors that an academic scientist can achieve,” said Jack Payne, UF's senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

This year, 443 members nationwide have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. 

Natalie Van Hoose and Tom Nordlie contributed to this report.

UF News November 26, 2019