Ten LI scientists earn prestigious AAAS fellowships

Has a nice ring to it: The American Association for the Advancement of Science has selected 416 new fellows -- including 10 Long Island-based investigators.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Ten Long Island scientists have received a prestigious peer-selected distinction, selected as 2018 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The high honor, a members-only selection by other AAAS members, recognizes “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications,” according to Stony Brook University, which led the Long Island region with six fellows placed among this year’s 416 total honorees.

Two Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory researchers were also selected as 2018 AAAS Fellows, while Brookville-based Long Island University and Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton were honored with one selection each.

Actually, make that one-and-a-half for BNL: Newly minted AAAS Fellow Esther Sans Takeuchi – honored once again for her groundbreaking lithium battery research – is both the William and Jane Knapp Endowed Chair in Energy and the Environment at SBU and the chief scientist of BNL’s Energy Sciences Directorate.

Esther Sans Takeuchi: Battery bridge.

The Class of 2018 represents a broad cross-section of scientific disciplines, with each member boasting a pioneering research effort, a mentoring milestone or some other leadership-level accomplishment that advances the public’s understanding of science.

Scientific diversity and groundbreaking personal achievement certainly describe SBU’s six new fellows, who are experts in polymer chemistry, data science and several sciences in between.

Robert Grubbs, a chemistry professor in SBU’s College of Arts and Sciences, was selected for his “distinguished contributions to polymer chemistry,” while Distinguished Professor Daniel O’Leary of the college’s Department of Psychology was named for his research into psychological and physical aggression between partners.

Also selected were three instructors from SBU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences: Research professor Eliza Reilly, an expert in civic engagement and undergraduate STEM education (for science, technology, engineering and mathematics); Distinguished Teaching Professor Steven Skiena, for his algorithmic work promoting interdisciplinary research between the biological and social sciences; and Sans Takeuchi, a distinguished professor in both the engineering college and SBU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Stony Brook’s 2018 fellows also include Vincent Yang, a professor in multiple departments at Stony Brook Medicine, who was selected for his “distinguished contributions to the field of gastrointestinal physiology and pathophysiology.”

The wide-ranging expertise displayed by the six SBU fellows, and the peer recommendations leading to the AAAS honors, speak well of Stony Brook and its professors’ individual accomplishments, according to University President Samuel Stanley Jr.

“This year’s election of six Stony Brook University scholars is a clear indication of the real difference they are making in their respective fields of research,” Stanley said Tuesday. “I commend them on this well-deserved honor.”

Pin point: The gold and blue of the AAAS Fellows rosette represent science and engineering, respectively.

Also earning 2018 fellowships were CSHL professors David Jackson, an expert in cellular development, and biologist Jan Witkowksi. Jackson earned the nod for his exploration of the genes and signals regulating stem-cell behavior in plants; Witkowski was awarded for his “seminal role in advancing science through his leadership of the Banbury Center, CSHL’s think tank for science,” the laboratory said in a statement.

Karen McNulty Walsh, a science writer in Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Media & Communications Office, and Thomas Inzana, the associate dean for research at LIU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, also earned fresh fellowships.

The AAAS fellowship tradition dates back to 1874, with such famous names as Thomas Edison (elected 1878) and Linus Pauling (elected 1939) and a host of Nobel Prize winners – including 2018 Nobel laureates James Allison, Arthur Ashkin, Frances Arnold and George Smith – swelling the fellowship’s ranks.

The full list of 2018 fellows is available here.

The 416 honorees will be officially recognized in 2019, during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington. At a Fellows Forum scheduled for Feb. 16, the new inductees will receive a certificate and the AAAS Fellows’ gold and blue rosette pin, representing the fields of science and engineering.