Rice University scientists named AAAS Fellows

Plant biologist Janet Braam, biophysicist José Onuchic to be honored in February

Rice University professors Janet Braam and José Onuchic have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science.

Janet Braam

Janet Braam

Braam and Onuchic are among 396 AAAS members elected by their peers to this year’s class of fellows. Fewer than 1 percent of the association’s members are elected each year. Fellows are selected for their distinguished efforts to advance science or scientific applications.

“Professors Braam and Onuchic are outstanding scholars with a deep commitment to undergraduate and graduate students,” said Rice Provost Marie Lynn Miranda. “They represent the very best of Rice — advancing the knowledge frontier, serving as excellent and exciting educators and providing tremendous leadership on our campus.”

Braam, the Wiess Professor of BioSciences and chair of Rice’s Department of BioSciences, was honored for “insightful and innovative contributions elucidating plant responses to diverse environmental stimuli.”

José Onuchic

José Onuchic

Braam takes a molecular approach to the study of how plants adapt to their environments, especially hostile ones that force them to evolve. One recent study showed how vegetables use their internal clocks to anticipate attack from insects even after harvest, leading to strategies that could optimize the nutritional benefits of crops. In another, Braam and her colleagues traced the uptake and accumulation of nanoparticles from water to plant roots to leaves and finally to the caterpillars that eat them.

Onuchic is the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Chair of Physics and a professor of physics and astronomy, of chemistry and of biosciences and co-director of Rice’s National Science Foundation-supported Center for Theoretical Biological Physics (CTBP). He was honored for “outstanding contributions to biological physics, especially for his seminal contributions to the understanding of protein folding through energy landscape concepts.”

Onuchic, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, works at the intersection of biology and physics, primarily through computational analysis, to reveal how atomic-scale processes relate to the behavior of cells and their communities with a particular focus on cancer. Recently, Onuchic and his CTBP colleagues applied their sophisticated models to predict how chromosomes fold based on epigenetic markers associated with a cell’s DNA.

Braam and Onuchic will be honored Feb. 17 at the Fellows Forum at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.

About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.