5 UC Berkeley researchers elected fellows of American Association for the Advancement of Science

Photo of Robert Ritchie, Spencer Klein and Margaret Conkey
Left to right: Robert Ritchie, Spencer Klein, Margaret Conkey

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Five UC Berkeley researchers were elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, for their contributions to a range of scientific fields.

UC Berkeley professors Margaret Conkey, Sanjay Kumar, Robert Ritchie, Peidong Yang and campus researcher Spencer Klein were elected along with 484 other scientists by their peers from the AAAS on Tuesday, according to the AAAS website.

Of all the elected scientists, eight are from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: Computational Research Division, or CRD, senior scientist Bert de Jong; Associate Laboratory Director for Biosciences Mary Maxon; CRD senior scientist Esmond Ng; Len Pennacchio, a senior scientist in the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute and the Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology Division; Kumar, a faculty scientist in the Biological Systems and Engineering Division; Ritchie, a senior faculty scientist in the Materials Sciences Division; Yang, a senior faculty scientist in the Materials Sciences and Chemical Sciences Divisions; and Klein, a senior scientist in the Nuclear Science Division, according to a Berkeley Lab press release.

The AAAS is one of the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific societies, and it publishes the peer-reviewed Science journal and annually elects fellows for its research that has helped to advance science, according to the website.

“To be able to have a group of peers who you respect to say they think the work that you’ve been doing is really valuable, it’s just wonderful,” Conkey said. “It really warrants some kind of recognition and meets the criteria for being elected to this major international scientific organization.”

Conkey is a campus professor of anthropology who was recognized for her research on early humans in southwest Europe, gender studies in archeology and the role of art in human evolution and society, according to Conkey.

Additionally, Conkey studies early visual systems of communication and the social lives of early humans, and she is interested in what a “gender-inclusive story of the human past” looks like.

“Some of the work that I have done — while well received and even considered ‘pioneering’ — has not always been considered to be science but more humanistic,” Conkey said. “The fact that the association felt that my work established scientific value is very rewarding.”

Ritchie is a campus professor of mechanical engineering and of materials science. He was recognized for his research on the mechanical behavior and fracture of metals, ceramics, composites and biological materials, among other substances.

Additionally, Ritchie said his research aims to understand how nature develops properties and how that can be emulated in synthetic materials to create resources including aircraft engines and medical devices.

“Being recognized by your fellow peers is the nicest thing that can happen, so it’s a nice honor,” Ritchie said. “It’s great to be recognized with other people on campus as well, not just by an abstract committee, but peers within my field.”

Klein is a campus research physicist. He was recognized for his research on the interface of astrophysics, nuclear physics and particle physics, which includes neutrino astrophysics — using neutrinos, which are subatomic particles, to detect particle accelerators in the universe — as well as his research on heavy-ion collisions.

“I’m happy about getting recognition for the work I’ve done, but it also doesn’t change my day-to-day routine,” Klein said. “There is still so much work and research that I’m going to do moving forward.”

Contact Annika Kim Constantino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaKimC.