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Two professors earn prestigious fellowships from AAAS

Yuwen Zhang and Dong Xu pose by a poster in the lobby of the hotel where the AAAS event was held.

Yuwen Zhang, James C. Dowell professor and chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, and Dong Xu, James C. Dowell professor and chair of the Computer Science Department, were among 347 Fellows in this year’s AAAS Fellows class. Photo courtesy of Dong Xu.

Two College of Engineering professors were part of a group of five University of Missouri faculty members elected Fellows by the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for 2015.

Dong Xu portrait

Dong Xu, James C. Dowell professor and chair of the Computer Science Department, was named an AAAS Fellow in the biological sciences category for his work in the bioinformatics field.

Dong Xu, James C. Dowell professor and chair of the Computer Science Department, and Yuwen Zhang, James C. Dowell professor and chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department were among 347 Fellows in this year’s class.

The AAAS states Fellows are selected in recognition of “their extraordinary achievements across disciplines.” The AAAS is the largest general scientific society in the world and is responsible for the renowned publication Science, among others. The first Fellows were selected in 1874.

There are 24 different disciplines, or sections, for which Fellows can be selected for their contributions. Zhang was selected for engineering, while Xu was selected in the biological sciences category for his work in the bioinformatics field.

Yuwen Zhang portrait

Yuwen Zhang, James C. Dowell professor and chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, was named an AAAS Fellow in the engineering category.

“I feel it’s really a great honor, a recognition in many aspects from the research lab to the college and to the discipline [of bioinformatics],” Xu said. “Our discipline is interdisciplinary and not a very mature field until the past five or 10 years.”

“My field of mechanical engineering is really old, but still, if you look at the leaders in our field in recent years, they’re starting to become Fellows in this society,” Zhang. “This is becoming more and more important.”

Fellows have to be AAAS members for at least four years and must be nominated for the honor by previously elected Fellows. Xu was nominated by Gary Stacey, a Curators Professor of Plant Science at MU, while Zhang was nominated by Shaochen Chen, a professor of nanoengineering at the University of California-San Diego. Nominees also must receive additional support letters and provide an application and a list of their 10 most influential publications.

One of the University of Missouri’s biggest selling points is its membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), which is a collection of 62 of North America’s most renowned research institutions. An additional benefit of having five faculty members selected as AAAS Fellows is that AAAS Fellowships help improve an institution’s standing within the AAU. Joining Xu and Zhang from MU were David Pintel, Dr. R. Phillip and Diane Acuff Endowed Professor in Medical Research; Randall Prather, distinguished professor of animal sciences and Michael Roberts, Curators Professor of animal science and professor of biochemistry.

“You have a list of awards that are recognized [as prestigious by the AAU], and this is one of them,” Zhang said. “So we’re happy that we were recognized, and this will help MU’s AAU status.”

Another key benefit of being elected Fellows is that both Xu and Zhang have the ability to potentially nominate fellow researchers for the honor, including those from the College of Engineering, in the future.

“One thing I feel is that our College has lots of good researchers, but people have to be nominated in order to be selected [as AAAS Fellows],” Xu said. “I hope that when I’m qualified others, I’d like to nominate people from our College.”