Hallem Wins MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant
Elissa Hallem (PhD 2005, Neuroscience), assistant professor of microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been awarded one of this year’s twenty-three MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants. Hallem explores the physiology and behavioral consequences of odor detection – olfaction – in invertebrates and identifies interventions that may eventually reduce the scourge of parasitic infections in humans.
“Both free-living and parasitic animals are capable of detecting and responding to olfactory cues present in their environments,” she says, in describing the work of her lab. “We are interested in understanding the neural basis of these odor-driven behaviors. We are also interested in how olfactory neural circuits can evolve in species with different lifestyles and ecological niches to mediate species-specific behavioral requirements.” She studies these questions using the parasitic and the free-living nematode C. elegans as model systems.
Hallem’s graduate studies of olfaction in fruit flies revealed several important and unexpected insights. Starting with a mutant fly strain that lacked odorant receptors in a subset of olfactory neurons, she produced more than twenty different transgenic fruit fly lines, each expressing a single, known odorant receptor gene in these neurons. She then measured the flies’ electro-physiologic responses to a set of more than one hundred different odorants, demonstrating that some odorant receptor types were highly selective and others were more broadly tuned, with an unexpectedly high fraction of odorant/receptor combinations inhibiting (rather than increasing) the firing rates of neurons. As a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, she shifted her attention to the connection between chemoreception and behavior, using as a model system the nematode worm C. elegans. Parasitic nematodes infect more than 20 percent of people across the globe, particularly in tropical regions. Her research is identifying interventions, pharmacologic or behavioral, that may eventually reduce the scourge of parasitic infections in humans. Her scientific articles have appeared in such publications as Nature, Cell, Current Biology, and PNAS. (AP Photo/Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Stephanie Diani)
Berman Named to Distinguished Fellowship at Cambridge
Bruce Berman (PhD 1974, Political Science), professor emeritus of political studies and history at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, was named the 2012 Smuts Visiting Research Fellow in Commonwealth Studies at the University of Cambridge, UK. Berman joined the faculty of Queen's in 1971 and is the author, co-author and co-editor of seven books and more than fifty published papers. His early work focused on the political economy of the colonial state in Africa and its impact on African societies. Since the 1990s, his work has focused increasingly on the development of modern African ethnicities and their political expression.
From 2006 through June 2012, Berman served as director and principal investigator of the Ethnicity and Democratic Governance (EDG) Program, the first major international, interdisciplinary research grant received at Queen’s. Its scholars and graduate students, hailing from twenty universities and nine countries, produced volumes of research papers. While at Cambridge, Berman will work on a book titled The Ordeal of Modernity: the Cultural Politics of Ethnicity, which has its origins in the EDG Program. Berman served as the President of the Canadian Association of African Studies in 1990-91 and of the African Studies Association in the U.S. in 2004-05.
Alumna becomes Provost at the University of Washington
Ana Mari Cauce (PhD 1984, Psychology), the Earl R. Carlson Professor of Psychology, has become provost and executive vice president of the University of Washington, where she served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2008 to 2011. She joined the University of Washington faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor, after earning her Ph.D. from Yale with a concentration in child clinical and community psychology. She holds faculty appointments in the departments of psychology and American ethnic studies, as well as secondary appointments in gender, women & sexuality studies, Latin American studies, and the College of Education. She maintains an active teaching, mentoring, and research program, focusing on adolescent development with a special emphasis on “at-risk” youth. As provost she is the University’s Chief Academic Officer, overseeing the educational, research, and service missions of all UW’s schools and academic units. She also works closely with the President on strategic planning and long-term decision-making.
Cauce’s many honors include the Dalmas Taylor Distinguished Contribution Award and the James M. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association, the Distinguished Contribution Award from the Society for Community Research and Action, and the University of Washington’s Distinguished Teaching Award. She has served as president of the Society for Community Research and Action and as associate or contributing editor of American Journal of Community Psychology, Child Development and American Psychologist.