Two Indiana University faculty members named AAAS fellows

  • Nov. 21, 2016


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two faculty members from Indiana University have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a distinction that recognizes outstanding contributions to the progress of science and research.

The 2016 fellows include Volker P. Brendel, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Science's Department of Biology and the IU School of Informatics and Computing, and Kenneth P. Mackie, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

The two faculty members' election brings the number of AAAS fellows affiliated with IU to 94.

"The groundbreaking work of these two distinguished scientists is pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of our minds and our natural world," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. "Through their efforts to understand the chemical mechanisms that drive genetic change in plants and the precise functions of the brain’s neurotransmitters, respectively, Professors Brendel and Mackie are revealing processes that underpin fundamental functions in nature and the human body. More broadly, their work speaks to Indiana University’s ongoing commitment to excellence in basic science research, which provides the foundation for new insights and innovations that can lead to major improvements in human health."

Election as a fellow is an honor bestowed upon association members by their peers. The AAAS citations of merit for the IU fellows read as follows:

  • Brendel -- For distinguished contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, particularly with respect to development of computational and cyberinfrastructure tools for analysis of plant genes and genomes.
  • Mackie -- For distinguished contributions to neuropharmacology, particularly toward our understanding of the actions of exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids in the nervous system.

The fellows will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the Nov. 25 issue of the journal Science.

A scientist whose work bridges the fields of biology, statistics and computer science, Brendel has shed new light on molecular and genetics mechanisms in plants, with a particular focus on the organization of plant RNA, the expression of genes in plants and the genetic relationship between different plant species.

He has also advanced the development of new computational tools to manage and understand the massive amount of genetic data produced by modern genomic sequencing methods, an effort that employs IU’s high-performance computing resources. His recent research has included analysis of social insect genomes.

Brendel is also director of bioinformatics at the IU School of Informatics and Computing. He holds a Ph.D. in life sciences from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and a Master of Science in applied statistics from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. He joined IU from Iowa State University in 2012.

Mackie is a neuroscientist whose work focuses on endogenous cannabinoids, or "endocannabinoids," which are compounds produced by the body that mimic many of the effects of THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana.

He is especially interested in the therapeutic applications of these molecules, which have been shown to play a role in memory, anxiety, schizophrenia and obesity. Scientists are also exploring these compounds for their potential as alternatives to opioid-based pain medications, whose overuse and abuse have contributed to an addiction crisis in the United States.

Mackie is also director of the Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science at IU and an affiliate faculty in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Program in Neuroscience. He earned his medical doctorate from Yale University in 1984 and completed his post-doctoral training at Rockefeller University and the University of Washington. He joined IU from the University of Washington in 2007.

The new fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold-and-blue rosette pin on Feb. 18 at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston. The IU recipients are among 391 to join the AAAS this year.

The tradition of AAAS fellows began in 1874. Members may be nominated for the honor by the steering groups of the association's 24 sections, by any three fellows who are current AAAS members or by the AAAS chief executive officer.

Volker P. Brendel

Volker P. Brendel | Photo by Indiana University

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Kenneth P. Mackie

Kenneth P. Mackie | Photo by Indiana University

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Kevin Fryling