Hatfull, Zigmond Named American Association for The Advancement of Science Fellows

Issue Date: 
January 11, 2010

Two University of Pittsburgh faculty members have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, in honor of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science.

Graham F. Hatfull, Eberly Family Professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, and Michael Zigmond, professor of neurology, neurobiology, and psychiatry in Pitt’s School of Medicine and director of Pitt’s Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research, were selected by their fellow AAAS members. They are among the 531 fellows for 2009 who were announced in the Dec. 18 edition of Science and who will be honored during the 2010 AAAS annual meeting in San Diego on Feb. 20. Hatfull was recognized for his contributions to the fields of site-specific recombination, mycobacterial genetic analysis, and bacteriophage evolution as well as for his work in educating undergraduates and high school students in science. As a microbiologist, Hatfull focuses primarily on bacteriophages—viruses that infect bacteria. He cofounded the Pitt-based Pittsburgh Bacteriophage Institute and, as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor, engages high school and undergraduate students in “phage hunting” field studies geared toward collecting and analyzing bacteriophages. Since 2006, Hatfull has collaborated with a professor from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine to improve the treatment and detection of tuberculosis; in March 2009, their team revealed a TB detector developed from bacteriophages with fluorescent proteins that glow bright green when in contact with drug-resistant strains of TB bacteria.

Zigmond was recognized for his contributions to understanding the factors that influence neurodegenerative disease and for his service to academia, including his promotion of professional development and ethics training. Zigmond directs a research team studying Parkinson’s disease. His particular interest involves the risk factors for this disease, which affects about 1.5 million people in the United States. His current focus is the impact of a lack of physical exercise among most adults, which he believes causes a decrease in neuroprotective factors within the brain. Thus, he is studying whether additional exercise can reduce the brain’s vulnerability to toxins that can cause a Parkinsonian syndrome in animal models. He also is interested in other risk factors, such as stress and traumatic brain injury. In addition to pursuing research, Zigmond is actively involved in several educational activities: He is the founding director of Pitt’s Survival Skills and Ethics Program, which provides workshops on professional skills and responsible conduct, and he directs two training grants in the neurosciences sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

The AAAS is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by publishing the journal Science as well as many scientific newsletters and books, and spearheading educational programs. The AAAS fellowship tradition began in 1874. Being named a fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.