Ten USF faculty members receive national recognition as AAAS Fellows for academic research

The list includes USF's first Black honoree

TAMPA, Fla. – The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has named 10 Universityof South Florida researchers as new Fellows, including a College of Education associateprofessor who will become the university’s first Black faculty member to receive oneof the world’s most prestigious honors for academic research.

Ruthmae Sears is being recognized for her work in mathematics education as well asleading a team of academic experts in a recent study of structural racism and effects on the daily lives of people for the City of St.Petersburg.

The new AAAS Fellows span multiple colleges and disciplines, bringing the total numberof Fellows at USF to 92.

"Our faculty is the lifeblood and backbone of the University of South Florida," USFPresident Rhea Law said. "And this distinguished, diverse group of faculty who representa wide-range of disciplines are a big reason why USF is America's fastest-rising university,driving growth and economic development in the Tampa Bay region and beyond."

The tradition of AAAS Fellows dates to 1874. AAAS Fellows are a distinguished cadreof scientists, engineers, and innovators who have been recognized for their achievementsacross disciplines ranging from research, teaching, and technology, to administrationin academia, industry, and government, to excellence in communicating and interpretingscience to the public.

An induction ceremony for the new Fellows will be held on Feb. 19 at the AAAS AnnualMeeting in Philadelphia.

“AAAS is proud to bestow the honor of AAAS Fellow to some of today’s brightest mindswho are integral to forging our path into the future,” said Dr. Sudip Parikh, AAASchief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “We celebrate these distinguished individuals for their invaluablecontributions to the scientific enterprise.”

The new AAAS Fellows from USF are listed below:

Norma A. Alcantar, PhD


Citation: For seminal work in sustainable functional technologies to remove pollutants and purifydrinking water, novel therapies for Alzheimer’s and cancer, ocean oil spill clean-upmethodologies, and advances in aquaculture systems.

Alcantar is the associate dean for research and a professor in the Department of Chemical,Biological and Materials Engineering in the College of Engineering. Alcantar is aglobal pioneer in developing innovative natural technologies for environmental, medical,and industrial applications. Her research focuses on interfacial phenomena and chemicalcharacterization of biomimetic membranes, drug delivery systems, micellar surfactants,green chemistry materials, water purification systems, nanoparticles and organic/inorganicthin films. She is internationally recognized for her inventions to filter contaminantsfrom fresh water and provide clean drinking water in areas around the world lackingaccess to clean water; creating new technologies for clearing up oil spills; implementinga hybrid technology to remove bacteria and ammonia from aquaculture systems; and creatingnovel therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and treatments for cancer tumor cells. Shecurrently holds 22 U.S. patents and was recently chosen to be inducted into the FloridaInventors Hall of Fame.

Delcie Durham, PhD


Citation: For seminal contributions to sustainability and green engineering with an emphasison product realization through lifecycle analysis and thermodynamic principles ofenergy and exergy for energy conversion and storage devices.

Durham is Professor Emerita of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineeringand served as dean of the USF Graduate School. She is recognized for her pioneeringresearch on sustainability and environmentally benign manufacturing and for her nationalleadership in advancing science. Her research focused on sustainable materials processes,life cycle analysis and assessment, and green engineering design. For nine years,she was a program director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in engineering designand subsequently in the agency’s materials processing and manufacturing program. Withother women program directors in the engineering directorate at NSF, she pioneeredand co-sponsored a series of training workshops on academic leadership for women engineeringfaculty.

Valerie J. Harwood, PhD

Biological Sciences

Citation: For distinguished contributions to the field of biology, particularly for advancesto microbial source tracking research and technologies, and demonstration of differentialsurvival of E. coli strains in the environment.

Ten USF faculty members receive national recognition as AAAS Fellows for academic research

Harwood is professor and chair of the Department of Integrative Biology in the Collegeof Arts and Sciences. She is an environmental microbiologist whose research focuseson water quality, and the nexus between microbial ecology and human health. She hasmade pioneering discoveries on bacterial contamination of bodies of water and is oneof the founding scholars in using molecular methods to track the sources of microbesin environmental waters. One of her most important contributions helped significantlyadvance Microbial Source Tracking (MST) — the science of determining the dominantsource of fecal pollution in environmental waters. She has worked closely with theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies on the development of MSTas a regulatory tool. She has served as expert consultant for the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among others.

Richard Heller, PhD

Medical Sciences

Citation: For distinguished contributions to medical engineering, particularly in drug and genedelivery, developing delivery systems and protocols for in vivo non-viral gene transferand advancing cancer immune gene therapy.

Heller is a professor of medical engineering and is regarded as a pioneer in developingefficient delivery systems for plasmid DNA and chemotherapeutics, and as the leadingexpert in gene electrotransfer. For more than 30 years, his research led to breakthroughsin the use of pulse electric fields to manipulate biological cells and tissue, especiallyfor the treatment of various cancers. He holds 40 U.S. patents, 17 of which have beenlicensed to four companies.

Chuanmin Hu, PhD

Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences

Citation: For distinguished contributions to the field of marine science, particularly for thediscovery of the Atlantic Sargassum belt and pioneering research in remote sensingalgorithms, data products, and applications.

Hu is a professor of optical oceanography in the College of Marine Science and directsthe Optical Oceanography Lab. His research focuses on studying marine algal blooms,particularly red tide; oil spills and coastal water quality changes using field, laboratoryand remote sensing techniques. His discovery of the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt— a biomass of brown seaweed that extends from the west coast of Africa to the Gulfof Mexico — made the Guinness World Records and was selected by Discover magazine as one of the top 50 discoveries in 2019. Hu has made pioneering developmentsin cutting-edge remote sensing algorithms and data products. The Virtual Buoy System,Integrated Redtide Information System, and Sargassum Watch System developed by theHu lab have served more than 60 countries.

Randy Larsen, PhD


Citation: For distinguished contributions to the field of physical and biophysical chemistry,particularly for the advancement of time resolved thermodynamics of biomolecules andporous material photophysics.

Larsen is a professor of chemistry and associate dean for research and scholarshipin the College of Arts and Sciences. He is a physical chemist whose research programcovers both the molecular basis of disease and functional materials. Larsen also hassignificantly advanced the field of research surrounding metal organic frameworks— porous materials that have emerged as important platforms for a wide range of applicationsin energy, environmental sustainability, medicine, and industrial processing.

Stephen R. McNutt, PhD

Geology and Geography

Citation: For distinguished contributions to the field of volcano seismology, particularly volcanichazards assessments, triggering effects of tides and sea-level, and development ofdatabases on volcanic earthquake swarms and volcanic tremor.

McNutt is a professor in the School of Geosciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.He is a world leader in the use of seismology and related geophysical tools to monitorhazardous natural events. He led the development of the Alaska Volcano ObservatorySeismic Network, an integrated real-time geophysical and geodetic observing systemfor 31 Alaskan volcanoes that threaten critical airline flight paths. The work involvedtracking earthquakes, infrasound, changes in land elevation and the occurrence oflightning to predict hazardous volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis, andtrack dangerous eruptive plumes. His is developing a similar observational networkfocused on the active volcanoes of Central America, the Andes, and the Antilles, workingwith USF colleagues to address both the scientific and human impacts of hazardousnatural events. He also pioneered the study of volcanic lightning, which is importantto understanding the processes of ash particle modification.

Yashwant Pathak, PhD

Pharmaceutical Sciences

Citation: For distinguished contributions to the field of pharmacy, particularly for developmentsin nanotechnology and drug delivery systems, especially in treating cancers and age-relatedmacular degeneration.

Pathak is a professor and associate dean for faculty affairs in the Taneja Collegeof Pharmacy. He is an internationally distinguished researcher and scholar whose discoverieshave advanced the field of pharmacy and drug discovery. Nearly 40 years ago, he wasthe first to develop applications of rosin and rosin derivatives for the controlledrelease of drugs. This was a foundational step forward in drug delivery, and todaythis process is in use in pharmaceuticals ranging from aspirin to complex drug matrices.Pathak also developed a novel type of microsphere, again advancing the field of drugdelivery systems, as microspheres are critical for controlled drug delivery. Morerecently, he developed ophthalmic drug delivery systems with a special focus on nano applications,to treat age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. Dr. Pathakalso leads in projects in the novel developments of nanoparticles as delivery systemsfor anti-cancer drug molecules.

Ruthmae Sears, PhD


Citation: For distinguished contributions to social justice, diversity, equity and inclusionefforts at both national and community levels, and for contributions to mathematicseducation.

Sears is an associate professor and associate director for the Coalition for ScienceLiteracy in the College of Education, where she has served as the faculty facilitatorfor the Inclusive and Equitable Pedagogy program. Her research focuses on curriculumissues and systemic change initiatives in kindergarten through college; the developmentof reasoning and proof skills; clinical experiences in secondary mathematics; andthe integration of technology in mathematics teaching and learning. She is the principalinvestigator for the City of St. Petersburg’s recent study on structural racism thatis the basis for the community’s deeper examination of longstanding equity issues.In addition to her research, Sears also provides extensive service to the professionand to the community. She is co-chair of the Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC) AnnualMeeting; and the Accelerating Systemic Change Network (ASCN) in STEM Higher EducationWorking group for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Marilyn Stern, PhD


Citation: For distinguished contributions to the field of psychology, particularly for developmentof parent-involved interventions for obese children and adolescents, pediatric cancersurvivors, and at-risk youth.

Stern is a professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies in the Collegeof Behavioral and Community Sciences and holds additional affiliate appointments inthe Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Departmentof Pediatrics in the Morsani College of Medicine. She is a pediatric health psychologistwhose research has focused on psychosocial oncology in children and adolescents dealingwith obesity and cancer, especially youth from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.She advanced understanding of the complexities these youth face when navigating post-recovery, long-termhealth, and transition to survivorship. She developed the notable intervention programsNOURISH-T, designed specifically for pediatric cancer survivors and their parents, andADAPT, to assist Latino families dealing with obesity.

About the University of South Florida

The University of South Florida, a high-impact global research university dedicatedto student success, generates an annual economic impact of more than $6 billion. Overthe past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S.News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designatedas a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placingit in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earnedwidespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minorityand limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher incomestudents. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.

About AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largestgeneral scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, as well as Science Translational Medicine; Science Signaling; a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances; Science Immunology; and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academiesof science, serving 10 million individuals. The nonprofit AAAS is open to all andfulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives inscience policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, andmore. For additional information about AAAS, visit www.aaas.org.

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