Five UArizona researchers named AAAS Fellows
From using microbes to combat allergies to turning insects into food, the newest University of Arizona AAAS Fellows represent a broad range of research expertise.
Five University of Arizona faculty members have been named AAAS Fellows, a distinct honor in the scientific community bestowed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Following a tradition that began in 1874, the AAAS Council elects a new class of scientists, engineers and innovators as AAAS Fellows each year in recognition of scientific and social achievements. The new class of 506 fellows was announced Tuesday and includes the following UArizona faculty members.
- Michael "Misha" Chertkov, professor of mathematics in the College of Science
- Goggy Davidowitz, professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
- Carmala Garzione, dean of the College of Science and professor of geosciences
- Donata Vercelli, Regents Professor of cellular and molecular medicine in the College of Medicine – Tucson
- Dennis Zaritsky, professor of astronomy in the College of Science
"To have five of our faculty members receive this prestigious recognition from AAAS is a tremendous honor," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "The breadth of their research endeavors – on everything from energy grids to edible insects – makes this a truly impressive group of individuals, and we are fortunate to have them pushing boundaries in their fields at the University of Arizona."
Michael "Misha" Chertkov
Chertkov, chair of the Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in applied mathematics and a professor of mathematics in the College of Science, is being recognized for "using methods of statistical physics to make profound contributions to our understanding of diverse systems, such as the power grid, machine learning and turbulence."
Chertkov earned a doctorate in physics from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. He then spent three years at Princeton University and joined the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 2019, he joined UArizona to head the Applied Mathematics GIDP. Chertkov has published more than 200 academic papers.
Chertkov's research at UArizona includes developing physics-informed approaches to artificial intelligence and machine learning with applications to turbulence, epidemiology and energy systems funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.
"I am dedicated to bringing the innovations I have worked on over the years as a theorist to applications in energy systems and fluid mechanics," Chertkov said. "Some of these innovations in energy systems have the potential to impact power grids and other energy infrastructures in my own Tucson community, or even around the world."
Davidowitz is a professor and University Distinguished Scholar in the Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He has a joint appointment in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the College of Science. He also is a member of the university's BIO5 Institute.
Davidowitz is being honored for his contributions to evolutionary physiology, the study of how organisms adjust growth and evolutionary fitness in response to short-term and long-term environmental changes. He has been particularly interested in exploring insects as a more nutritious and environmentally sustainable food source than traditional livestock.
Davidowitz founded a startup company, HexaFeast, to commercialize processes and technologies around the concept of "edible insects."
"Our focus has been on how to repurpose abundant food waste into edible insect protein, extrapolating the proverb 'one man's trash is another man's treasure,'" Davidowitz said. "This applied research program in edible insects will directly benefit society by finding new ways to feed the growing human population."
Davidowitz got his doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology, with a minor in entomology, at UArizona.
He credits the university, and particularly the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the entomology department, with supporting the edible insect research program well before the idea of edible insects gained popularity.
"In addition to our Department of Entomology being ranked among the best in the country, we are known for being a very congenial and supportive department," he said. "Everybody here is truly happy when good things happen to our colleagues."
Garzione, a professor of geosciences and dean of the College of Science, is being recognized for her contributions to the field of geoscience, including her research on the processes that build mountain belts and the interactions between climate and plate tectonics. This research has taken her to many regions within and surrounding the Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau and the Andes.
"I am grateful for the incredibly fun research career that I've experienced, and honored that my work is valued by my research community," Garzione said.
Garzione first became acquainted with UArizona as a graduate student, earning a master's degree and a doctorate in geosciences. In 2000, she joined the University of Rochester, and almost 20 years later, she took on a leadership position for the Rochester Institute of Technology. In 2021, she returned to UArizona as dean of the College of Science.
Garzione has earned numerous awards throughout her career, including the Goergen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Rochester and the Donath Medal, a young scientist award from the Geological Society of America. As a dean, Garzione said she is particularly excited about fostering the collaborative research culture at UArizona and growing public-private partnerships. She is also eager to leverage the unique strengths and educational opportunities of the university in developing a highly skilled workforce.
"Our students are involved in state-of-the-art, world-leading activities that help them prepare for the future and help us maintain an exciting place to work," she said.
Vercelli is a Regents Professor of cellular and molecular medicine, associate director of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center and director of the Arizona Center for the Biology of Complex Diseases.
Vercelli, who is also a member of the university's BIO5 Institute, was named a AAAS Fellow for her contributions to the medical sciences field, specifically her research on asthma and airway diseases and the genetic and environmental mechanisms that control susceptibility to complex lung diseases.
"When it became clear through research that growing up in microbe-rich environments can protect from allergic disease, I focused on ways to prevent allergies through microbial exposures," Vercelli said. "This theme has led us to explore fundamental immunological paradigms which can be used to prevent serious, common diseases of children and adults."
Vercelli trained in immunology at Boston Children's Hospital/Harvard Medical School until 1994. She then served as director of the Molecular Immunoregulation Unit at San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy. She joined UArizona in 1999.
"At the University of Arizona, we were encouraged to think boldly and innovatively," Vercelli said. "Because we dared to do experiments that no one thought could work, we're now closer than ever to understanding how to achieve allergy-protective effects."
Zaritsky, a professor of astronomy, is being honored for his contributions to the field of astronomy, including research that made connections between dark and luminous matter.
"Astronomical research serves to inspire and awaken curiosity in the broader commnity that we hope translates to other sciences, and even beyond science," Zaritsky said. "I hope that the enthusiasm generated by the University of Arizona's astronomy research program continues to get passed on to the students we teach and the general public."
Zaritsky earned his doctorate in astronomy from UArizona in 1991. He returned to UArizona as a faculty member in 1999.
Some highlights in Zaritsky's career include the discovery of direct evidence for dark matter based on his research of colliding galaxy clusters, as well as the discovery of a unifying relationship for the structures of all galaxies.
"The philosophy of the astronomy department has consistently been to support whatever passion project each researcher wants to follow as much as possible," Zaritsky said. "There has always been a tendency to hear, 'How can we achieve this?' rather than, 'Why you can't do this.'"
Newly elected AAAS Fellows will receive an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin to commemorate their election. They will be celebrated at a gathering in Washington, D.C., this spring.
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