Faculty members recognized for contributions to advancement of science

By The Daily Illini staff report

Four professors at the University were recognized as fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for the contributions to their respective scientific fields.

Narayana Aluru, professor in mechanical science and engineering; William Gropp, professor in computer science; and Andrew Leakey and Ray Ming, professors in plant biology, will be formally honored for their achievements at the 2019 AAAS annual meeting in Washington D.C., along with 412 other scientists. 

Leakey said it is important for organizations such as AAAS to recognize those who have made great contributions to a scientific field because the public should be aware of what scientists do and what they contribute to society.

“I’m very grateful and appreciative to all the people who I’ve worked (with) that made it possible,” Leakey said. “It reflects the effort of a really big group of people who work within my research team as well as lots of colleagues here at the University of Illinois and elsewhere.”

Leakey said he appreciates working with his colleagues at the University and the resources the University provides.

He said his career is driven by his questions and self-motivation, and there are always opportunities to work with different people and constantly learn.

Ming’s career in plant biology began because of his interest in the origin and diversity of life. He focuses on researching the principles of morphology and the general functions of life, and aims to improve food nutrition and quality of life through his contributions to agriculture.

Ming said in addition to being honored to be among fellow accomplished AAAS fellows, he is relieved AAAS fellows see their work as worthwhile.

Ming also said raising awareness of scientific research is important.

“Awards like this would encourage students to pursue careers in science and engineering as they would be shown how scientific research is relevant to our daily life as well as addressing issues in society or the physical world that appeared to be unapproachable in the past,” Ming said in an email.

Gropps, director for National Center for Supercomputing Applications, said fellowships or associations like the AAAS are important because it is interdisciplinary and includes all fields in science. 

Gropps said he pursued a career in computer science because “it’s so fun to learn how things work.”

It is an honor to be recognized as a fellow, but the fellowship does not come with any funding, he said. 

“I do continue to support the mission of AAAS,” he said. “Being designated as a fellow helps identify you as someone who is recognized by your peers in your field.”

Gropps said the AAAS fellowship has two important components to it.

First, it recognizes and rewards people in their contributing field, and it also communicates to people outside the recipients’ field that they have been judged by their peers as an expert in that specific field.

“It’s some way to know this person is judged by peers as an expert in this area,” Gropps said.

Narayana Aluru did not respond at time of publication.

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