The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which was founded in 1848 and is the world’s largest general scientific society, announced that 489 of its members—among them nine scientists at Berkeley Lab—have been named Fellows. This lifetime honor, which follows a nomination and review process, recognizes scientists, engineers, and innovators for their distinguished achievements toward the advancement or applications of science.
The three newly named Fellows from the Biosciences Area are: Sanjay Kumar, a faculty scientist in the Biological Systems and Engineering (BSE) Division; Mary Maxon, the Associate Laboratory Director for the Biosciences Area; and Len Pennacchio, a senior scientist in the Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology (EGSB) Division and the Deputy of Genomic Technologies at the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI).
Kumar, who is a professor and chair of UC Berkeley’s Bioengineering Department, was elected for his “distinguished contributions to the field of bioengineering, particularly the development of biomaterial and single-cell technologies to investigate mechanobiological signaling in health and disease.” His research group investigates the molecular basis of cell shape, mechanics, and motility, as well as how cells mechanically interact with their surroundings. This work provides key insight into many areas of biology and medicine, including how tissues develop and how tumors grow and spread. His team is currently investigating how cancer and stem cells sense and process biophysical signals. They are also developing high-functioning “smart” materials inspired by structural networks within cells and tissues.
Maxon was recognized for her “outstanding contributions to science-informed policymaking, wise policies for life sciences research, research management, and science philanthropy.” Before joining the Biosciences Area leadership team, Maxon gained a comprehensive view of the many technological and economic opportunities—and accompanying challenges—of the current biological research landscape by working in both the public and private sectors. After earning a PhD in molecular cell biology from UC Berkeley and doing a postdoc in genetics at UCSF, she worked at several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies before venturing into policy, most notably serving as the Assistant Director for Biological Research at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Obama Administration, during which she developed the foundational National Bioeconomy Blueprint.
In her role at Berkeley Lab, Maxon developed and is leading a large-scale scientific strategic plan aimed at advancing the U.S. bioeconomy by fostering close relationships between the DOE national labs, academia, and industry; and by leveraging the continually advancing, world-class facilities, equipment, and expertise that is unique to Berkeley Lab. Earlier this year, she testified at a hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology about how the DOE’s wide portfolio of biosciences capabilities have been an essential part of the country’s ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response.
Pennacchio, who is an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley, was recognized for his “distinguished and pioneering contributions toward understanding how the noncoding genome works to regulate gene expression and to affect normal mammalian development and disease.” He joined Berkeley Lab in 1999 as a DOE Alexander Hollaender Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow where he began his work on noncoding human DNA. He was involved in DOE’s contribution to the Human Genome Project and has spent his career understanding how genes are functionally regulated and how this regulation goes awry in human disease. He also leads the development and deployment of new genomic technologies to support the work of JGI’s user community in energy and environmental research and applications.
A virtual induction ceremony for the new Fellows will be held on Feb. 13, 2021.
Read about all of the Berkeley Lab Fellows in the News Center.