4 campus faculty members elected as American Association for the Advancement of Science fellows

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science announced Nov. 24 the election of four campus faculty members as fellows.

The association’s members are nominated annually to be fellows for their distinguished efforts in scientific research or achievements in the application of science. The association publishes the journal Science and began electing fellows in 1874. This year, 401 new fellows were elected.

Paul Kalas, adjunct professor of astronomy, was recognized for work in observational astronomy, which gained widespread attention for using the Hubble Space Telescope to image exoplanets.Paul_Kalas

Kalas said election to the association is a great honor and is likely due in part to his recent imaging of a planetary system 25 light-years from Earth.

“The homerun was the discovery of Fomalhaut b,” he said. “That discovery, the direct detection of extrasolar planets, is very hard.”

John_Harte

The new fellows also include John Harte, professor of environmental science, policy and management, and William Collins, senior scientist and climate science department head at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, two leading researchers on climate science.

According to Harte, the election represents an acknowledgment by the scientific community of the important contribution of one’s research. Harte, who was surprised by the nomination, was elected for his distinguished work on the mathematical modeling of ecosystem structure and function and for work in linking climate science and biological diversity.

William_Collins

Collins’ research investigates how natural and human agents combine to influence climate evolution. He was a lead author on an assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for which the organization received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Collins said he hoped the recognition would give added weight to the work of climate scientists.

“I’m flattered to be in such august company,” he said. “I hope this fellowship will help me to do good science and to mentor the next generation of scientists — which I find to be one of the most important parts of my job.”

Cathryn_Carson

Cathryn Carson, associate professor in the department of history who was also elected, researches the history of science. She said her work with the association has primarily focused on building interfaces between the scientific community and the public.

By producing academic research on the practice of science, she provides a framework for policymakers and the public to interpret the meaning of scientific advances in practical terms. Carson said an important part of her mission is educating students about how scientists conduct research.

“It’s not some disembodied group of brains — these are real people in a real social setting trying very hard to solve difficult problems,” she said.

The new inductees will be honored at an AAAS event in February in San Jose that will include science education events. Currently, there are 224 UC Berkeley association fellows.

Contact Isaac Smith at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @IsaacGSmith.

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