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Six Illinois faculty members elected to be fellows of American Association for the Advancement of Science

The+Beckman+Institute+sits+north+of+the+Engineering+Quad+in+Champaign+on+Oct.+4%2C+2016.+This+year%2C+the+institute+celebrates+its+30th+anniversary+with+events+throughout+the+year.
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Six Illinois faculty members elected to be fellows of American Association for the Advancement of Science

The Beckman Institute sits north of the Engineering Quad in Champaign on Oct. 4, 2016. This year, the institute celebrates its 30th anniversary with events throughout the year.

The Beckman Institute sits north of the Engineering Quad in Champaign on Oct. 4, 2016. This year, the institute celebrates its 30th anniversary with events throughout the year.

The Daily Illini File Photo

The Beckman Institute sits north of the Engineering Quad in Champaign on Oct. 4, 2016. This year, the institute celebrates its 30th anniversary with events throughout the year.

The Daily Illini File Photo

The Daily Illini File Photo

The Beckman Institute sits north of the Engineering Quad in Champaign on Oct. 4, 2016. This year, the institute celebrates its 30th anniversary with events throughout the year.

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Six faculty members of the University were elected to be the 2016 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In total, 391 were chosen for their achievements in their respected fields.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world’s largest general scientific society. Fellows are chosen by their peers in honor of their outstanding contributions in their respective fields.

Jianjun Cheng, professor of material sciences and engineering, was recognized for the exploration of ways to deliver therapeutic drugs to specific cells and tissues in the body. The development can be used on cancer treatments.

Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Brian T. Cunningham and his group focused on creating sensors for a wide variety of medical and scientific applications using materials with unique light-bending and reflecting properties.

Kevin Pitts, a physics professor and the associate dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Engineering, was elected a fellow for his distinguished contributions to the field of high energy physics and for efforts to provide opportunities in physics for members of traditionally underrepresented communities.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science,” Pitts said. “That’s a very distinguished organization that emcompasses many fields of science and has been around for a very long time.”

Pitts said that he wants to make sure that the next generation has those kind of opportunities available to them regardless of their gender or their skin color, their background or their religion.

“That’s why I feel very strongly about trying to help young people be aware of and get excited about math, science and engineering,” Pitts said. 

Bruce L. Rhoads, professor of geography and geographic information science, is given the honor for his work on physical geography and fluvial geomorphology, so that better decisions can be made in river management.

Chemistry professor Chad M. Rienstra was awarded the fellowship for his work on specialized spectroscopy methods, and recently detailed the structure of the protein that forms fibrils in Parkinson’s disease patients. The project took his research group close to a decade to complete.

“Being selected as a fellow of the AAAS is a great honor, and it’s one that’s only acknowledged to only a handful of people in my field each year,” Rienstra said. “I’m thrilled to be a member of this very prestigious society.”

Joseph Torrellas, professor of computer science, is recognized for his work that explores new processor, memory and system technologies and organizations to build novel multiprocessor computer architectures.

“These members of our faculty exemplify the extraordinary scholarship, innovation and teaching that defines Illinois,” said Edward Feser, the interim vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost at the University. “They are leaders in their fields who have made highly significant contributions to their disciplines and the academy. We are proud they are our colleagues.”

The new fellows will be honored at the 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in Boston.

Karen Liu, Sabrina Yan, and Ashley Harris contributed to this report.

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