Kristi Henderson
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Professors named as AAAS fellows

Mon, 12/07/2015

LAWRENCE – Two University of Kansas professors have been selected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for their distinguished efforts to advance science and its applications.

Erik Lundquist, professor of molecular biosciences, and Ilya Vakser, professor of computational biology and molecular biosciences, were among the class of 347 fellows chosen in 2015. The new fellows will be recognized in February at the AAAS annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The tradition of electing AAAS Fellows began in 1874. AAAS is known as the world’s largest general scientific society.

Erik Lundquist is director of the Genetics Program at KU. Lundquist was recognized for distinguished contributions to understanding molecular mechanisms of nervous system development, including axon guidance, using modern genetic and in vivo approaches. 

His lab studies how the genome controls formation of the nervous system during development. Specifically, he studies how neurons come to reside in their proper locations and how neurons extend axons to make circuits and networks in the nervous system. Lundquist uses the small model organism nematode worm C. elegans as a model because of its relative simplicity, its experimental tractability, and the similarity of its genes and molecular mechanisms of development to those of humans. Studies in the Lundquist lab using C. elegans have implications for neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders in humans.

Lundquist completed his doctorate in genetics from the University of Minnesota and was a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation post-doctoral research fellow at the University of California-San Francisco and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His research at KU has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Ilya Vakser is the director of the Center for Computational Biology at KU. Vakser was recognized for distinguished contributions to the field of computational structural biology, particularly for theoretical studies of molecular recognition and methodology development for protein docking.

His lab is focused on the development of molecular recognition methods for structural genomics and bioinformatics. The major goals are to develop approaches to the structural modeling of protein interactions and to design procedures for reconstruction and characterization of the network of connections between proteins in a genome. Progress in the description of life processes at the molecular level requires better understanding of protein interactions. Computational studies of structural and physicochemical aspects of these interactions are important for revealing the underlying fundamental principles and for designing better tools to model protein complexes.

Vakser completed his doctorate in biophysics from Moscow State University and held postdoctoral research positions at Weizmann Institute of Science, Washington University (St. Louis) and Rockefeller University. His research has been supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

The Department of Molecular Biosciences and the Center for Computational Biology are part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Through innovative research and teaching, the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. The College is KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit.

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