Four University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty members have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest general scientific society in the world. Fellows are selected by peers for scientifically or socially distinguished achievements that advance science or its application.
This continues Nebraska faculty’s recent momentum in receiving this recognition, with five fellows named in 2016 and a record eight in 2015.
Nebraska’s new AAAS fellows are:
Roger Bruning, Velma Warren Hodder Professor of Educational Psychology, for distinguished contributions to the field of educational psychology, particularly instructional applications of cognitive sciences and literacy development research.
David Hage, James Hewett University Professor of Chemistry, for distinguished contributions in the field of analytical and bioanalytical chemistry, particularly in the development of high-performance affinity chromatography and related affinity-based separation methods.
Jim Lewis, Aaron Douglas Professor of Mathematics, for distinguished contributions to mathematics and mathematics education, particularly his leadership and ability to bring diverse stakeholders together in support of positive change in mathematics teaching and learning.
Jay Storz, Susan J. Rosowski Professor of Biological Sciences, for distinguished contributions to evolutionary biology, particularly mechanisms of protein evolution, gene family evolution and the mechanistic basis of biochemical and physiological adaptation.
The AAAS tradition of electing fellows dates to 1874. Nebraska’s honorees are among the 396 fellows named this year, who will be formally announced in the Nov. 24 issue of the journal Science. They will be recognized Feb. 17 at the AAAS meeting in Austin, Texas.
More about Nebraska’s new AAAS fellows:
Across a nearly 50-year career, Bruning, an educational psychologist, has focused his research on applying psychological principles to teaching and learning.
“Being raised as a ‘farm kid’ in Nebraska, I had many opportunities to explore the world around me,” he said. “This shaped my interest in education and learning issues.”
Bruning conducts research on how certain areas of students’ cognition and motivation – short- and long-term memory, self-efficacy and self-regulation, for example – affect their ability to read, write and learn. With this information, he devises instructional techniques that maximize learning, particularly in science.
Bruning, co-director of Nebraska’s Center for Instructional Innovation, has been part of multiple partnerships aimed at improving teaching in Nebraska and beyond.
For many years, he and colleagues have worked closely with local schools to develop science inquiry projects for rural and urban K-12 students. With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, he developed ThinkAboutIt and Infogather, online platforms that foster collaborative and efficient learning.
Bruning said he is especially proud of his contribution to widely used psychology texts that highlight cognitive and motivational processes in writing, mathematics and science learning.
“Being named an AAAS fellow is a direct result of my work with many talented colleagues in science, math and the cognitive sciences, and I see it as one of the most satisfying moments of my career,” he said.
Hage, a chemist, is a leading researcher in the design and use of affinity-based separations based on high-performance liquid chromatography. His research group uses biological agents, such as proteins and antibodies, to separate and analyze complex chemical mixtures that range from clinical to environmental samples.
His team developed a new approach for studying drug-protein binding that is fast, reproducible and accurate. Using very small sample sizes, this technique sheds light on the behavior of drugs in individual patients. This approach could lead to customized treatment for people with diabetes and other diseases, opening the door for breakthroughs in personalized medicine.
“We’re working on tools for doctors and hospital labs that will help determine what the correct drug or dose is for a given patient,” Hage said. “This will help patients avoid going through a trial-and-error process when they’re given a new drug-based treatment.”
Other applications of Hage’s approach for rapid affinity-based measurements could lower the price of drug development, identify markers for diseases or physical states like concussion and enable detection of drugs and other manmade chemicals in the water supply.
Beyond his research, Hage is a dedicated mentor who enjoys watching his students become independent scientists.
“Their contributions have been really essential to me getting the AAAS fellowship, and I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.
Lewis’ ability to build consensus has enabled him to profoundly influence mathematics education at the university, in Nebraska and nationwide.
“I try to find solutions that take into account different perspectives,” Lewis said, explaining his success in forging partnerships between university educators, K-12 teachers, administrators and researchers.
He is passionate about uniting these groups to improve content knowledge, classroom techniques and student assessment. He has led three National Science Foundation-funded projects – Math in the Middle, NebraskaMATH and NebraskaNOYCE – aimed at fostering these collaborations. He also is director of Nebraska’s Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education, focused on improving teaching and learning.
Lewis is a champion of diversity in his field. During his 15-year tenure as mathematics department chair, the proportion of doctorates awarded to women rose from zero to 40 percent in tandem with an overall increase in doctorates granted.
Under his leadership, the department won the universitywide Department Teaching Award and an NSF Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. Currently, Lewis is acting assistant director of the NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate.
“It’s a wonderful honor,” Lewis said of the AAAS fellowship. “I have great colleagues, and together we’ve achieved a lot.”
Storz, an evolutionary biologist, focuses his research on the genetic basis of evolution, exploring fundamental questions about mutational pathways and the extent to which evolution is repeatable, predictable and reversible.
Much of Storz’s work examines the evolution of novel traits that enable animals to survive in extreme environments, specifically the biochemical and physiological adaptations that allow high-altitude animals to live in low-oxygen conditions.
His work often takes him beyond the laboratory to mountain ranges across the world, collaborating with researchers in North and South America, Europe and Asia.
Last year, his team compared high-altitude bird species in the Andes Mountains with their lowland counterparts, demonstrating that species can take varying genetic paths to evolve the same trait.
Though Storz focuses on basic research, his findings are catalyzing major biomedical discoveries. His insights into the adaptation of animal blood proteins are guiding the design of genetically engineered oxygen-carrying proteins for synthetic blood substitutes, which have similar characteristics to biological blood. An oxygen-carrying blood substitute could be a breakthrough in transfusion medicine.
“It’s a nice pat on the back,” Storz said of his AAAS recognition.