Research News

Two Vanderbilt faculty members are elected AAAS fellows

Two Vanderbilt faculty members – Peter T. Cummings and Ellen H. Fanning – have been elected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an honor bestowed upon them by their peers.

They are among 471 scientists from around the country who have been elevated to this rank because of their efforts to advance science or its applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished. New fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin on Saturday, Feb. 16, at the 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.

Cummings, who is the John R. Hall Professor of Chemical Engineering at Vanderbilt, was honored for “outstanding contributions in research, for extraordinary service in his profession, and for national leadership in the emerging field of theoretical and computational nanoscience.”

As principal scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences and director of the laboratory’s Nanomaterials Theory Institute, Cummings oversees a team of scientists and engineers working to develop new materials to be used in medicine, electronics and a wide variety of industrial applications. Since joining the Vanderbilt engineering faculty in 2002, his achievements include developing the leading model for water used in molecular-level computer simulations and participation in computer modeling to predict how individual cancer cells are likely to spread through the body.

Fanning, who is the Stevenson Professor of Molecular Biology, was cited for “elucidation of the mechanisms of initiation of DNA replication in papovaviral and mammalian genomes, and for structure-function studies of DNA replication proteins.”

Fanning studies the molecular mechanisms that control one of life’s most important operations: DNA replication. A variety of human diseases, including cancer, are caused when cells begin the DNA duplication process at the wrong time or place, or fail to complete the process properly. Her laboratory is studying the molecular sequences that initiate this process in mammals. In addition, her team is exploring the human version of a molecular complex, called the origin recognition complex (ORC) that was first identified in yeast where it acts as an initiator that determines the sites where the replication process begins. Versions of the proteins that make up the human ORC have been identified but scientists do not yet know much about how it works.

Founded in 1848, the AAAS is the world’s largest federation of scientists and includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies, serving 10 million individuals. The Association works to advance science for human well-being through its projects, programs and publications. It conducts many programs in the areas of science policy, science education and international scientific cooperation.

Media Contact: David F. Salisbury, (615) 343-6803