By Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, U. of I. News Bureau
Three faculty members in the Department of Chemistry, Rohit Bhargava, Paul Braun, Prashant Jain, have been elected 2020 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
They join two other University of Illinois professors, Allison Bell, evolution, ecology and behavior professor, and Nancy Sottos, materials science and engineering professor, who are among the 489 scientists to be awarded the distinction of AAAS Fellow this year.
AAAS Fellows are elected each year by their peers serving on the Council of AAAS, the organization’s member-run governing body. The title recognizes important contributions to STEM disciplines, including pioneering research, leadership within a given field, teaching and mentoring, fostering collaborations, and advancing public understanding of science. A virtual induction ceremony for the 489 newly elected Fellows will take place on Feb. 13, 2021. The honorees will receive official certificates and rosette pins in gold and blue, colors symbolizing science and engineering.
- Bhargava is an affiliate faculty member in chemistry and the Founder Professor in Bioengineering and the director of the Cancer Center at Illinois, with a research home in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. His lab works to develop new chemical-imaging tools and artificial intelligence technologies that will aid in detecting, diagnosing and understanding cancer. Among his educational innovations are the Cancer Scholars Program and the National Institutes of Health T32-supported Tissue Microenvironment Training Program for graduate students across campus. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, and he has received other national awards for his research.
- Braun is a professor of chemistry, the Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering and the director of the Materials Research Laboratory at the U. of I., with appointments in other departments and institutes, including the Beckman Institute. His research group focuses on the synthesis of materials with carefully crafted 3D nano- and mesoscale architectures that have useful optical, electrochemical and thermal properties. For example, his group is developing new materials for high-energy and power-electrochemical energy storage systems such as fast-charging batteries and high-energy microbatteries. Braun is a Fellow of the Materials Research Society and is a recipient of numerous faculty and research awards.
- Jain is a professor, Alumni Scholar and the Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholar in chemistry at Illinois. He investigates the unique behavior of electrons, photons and atoms in nanoscale materials and applies this understanding to the conversion of sunlight to fuels and the design of new solid-state catalysts. His group has developed particles with special optical resonances that can be switched on and off. These “plasmonic quantum dots” can act as optical switches – key components for computers that could use light instead of electricity to transmit data at ultra-high speeds. Jain is a professor in the Materials Research Laboratory and the Beckman Institute at Illinois, and a faculty affiliate of physics. He also is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and he was named one of the Top 10 young scientists to watch in the Science News annual spotlight of early- and mid-career scientists "on their way to greater widespread acclaim."
- Bell studies the evolution of behavior in the three-spined stickleback, a fish species adapted to diverse habitats. She is a pioneer in the study of animal personality, using genomics and other tools to understand the causes and consequences of individual behavior differences. She is a member of the Animal Behavior Society, the International Society for Behavioral Ecology and the American Society of Naturalists. She was a recipient of the 2012 Young Investigator Award from the Animal Behavior Society. She is the leader of the Gene Networks in Neural and Developmental Plasticity theme at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology; the Lowell Getz Scholar in Evolution, Ecology and Behavior; a Romano Scholar; and a professor in the Beckman Institute; the Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation; and the Neuroscience Program.
- Sottos is the head of materials science and engineering. She also is a Center for Advanced Study Professor and a Swanlund Chair at Illinois. She leads the Autonomous Materials Systems group at the Beckman Institute, and is affiliated with the Materials Research Laboratory, mechanical science and engineering and aerospace engineering. Her research focuses on polymers and composite materials capable of self-healing and regeneration; mechanochemically active polymers; and materials that can reliably store energy. She is a Fellow of the Society of Engineering Science and the Society for Experimental Mechanics. She was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in early 2020.
The tradition of electing AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Since then, the recognition has gone to thousands of distinguished scientists, such as inventor Thomas Edison, elected in 1878, sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois (1905), anthropologist Margaret Mead (1934), computer scientist Grace Hopper (1963), physicist Steven Chu (2000), and astronaut Ellen Ochoa (2012). The 2020 group contains members of each of AAA's 24 sections.