November 29, 2012

Two more Salk scientists elected as AAAS Fellows

Professors Ecker and Noel chosen for leading edge research efforts to advance science

Salk News

Two more Salk scientists elected as AAAS Fellows

Professors Ecker and Noel chosen for leading edge research efforts to advance science

LA JOLLA,CA—Salk faculty members Joseph Ecker and Joseph Noel have been named as 2012 Fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and the publisher of the journal Science. Election as an AAAS Fellow is among the highest honors in American science and scholars are selected by their peers for “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications,” according to election administrators.

Ecker and Noel are among 702 new members that will be honored during the 2013 AAAS annual meeting in Boston on February 16. The elections bring the Salk’s current total of AAAS Fellows to 16.

“We are very proud of these investigators and the distinguished research that they have conducted at the Institute,” said William R. Brody, Salk president. “We congratulate them on election as AAAS fellows and look forward to their many more scientific accomplishments in the future.”

Joseph Ecker, professor in the Salk’s Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation investigator, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and holder of the Salk International Council Chair in Genetics. He was honored for his distinguished contributions to the fields of genomic/epigenomes of plant and human cells, particularly for the development of new tools that enable genome-wide analyses.

Ecker is internationally recognized for his pioneering contributions to plant genomics. One of the nation’s leading authorities on the molecular biology and genetics of plants, he was a principal investigator in the multinational project that sequenced the entire genome of Arabidopsis thaliana, an achievement expected to have widespread implications for agriculture and perhaps human medicine as well. Ecker is also widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on how the gaseous hormone ethylene regulates a variety of basic plant processes. Up to one-third of the food produced worldwide is lost or spoiled due to the effects of ethylene, which shortens the shelf life of many fruits and vegetables by putting the ripening process on fast-forward. His groundbreaking research has yielded essential insights into the mechanisms of plant growth control and led to the development of new technologies that delay fruit ripening and disease processes.

Joseph Noel, professor and director of Salk’s Jack H. Skirball Center for Chemical Biology and Proteomics, is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and the inaugural holder of the Arthur and Julie Woodrow Chair. Noel was selected for his distinguished contributions to the understanding of plant metabolism, especially the evolution, biochemistry and structures underlying the biosynthesis of specialized metabolites including polyketides and terpenes.

Noel explores the roots of biological diversity at the chemical level and seeks to understand the natural chemical factories plants and microbes use to produce a vast array of compounds that allow them to survive and prosper in the multitude of challenging ecosystems found all over the earth. Through this research, he seeks to harness and alter the biosynthetic pathways needed to produce complex molecular scaffolds that will expedite the development of effective medicines, provide new strategies to increase the nutrition and sustainability of the world’s food supply and engineer bio renewable chemicals and fuels to supplant petrochemical-based resources.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the Association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer.

Each steering group then reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.

The Council is the policymaking body of the Association, chaired by the AAAS president, and consisting of the members of the board of directors, the retiring section chairs, delegates from each electorate and each regional division, and two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science.

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world’s preeminent basic research institutions, where internationally renowned faculty probe fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative, and creative environment. Focused both on discovery and on mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and infectious diseases by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology, and related disciplines.
Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, M.D., the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.

About the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science ( as well as Science Translational Medicine ( and Science Signaling ( AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through
initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

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