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Two more Salk scientists elected as AAAS Fellows

Salk Institute for Biological Studies 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 Feb. 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."

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 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 research has yielded insights into the mechanisms of plant growth control and led to the development of new technologies that delay fruit ripening and disease processes.

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 an 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.

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