Three ASU faculty elected AAAS fellows

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Three ASU faculty have been elected fellows of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of their career contributions to science.

Bertram Jacobs and Hal Smith were recognized for their pioneering efforts in biological sciences, while Huan Liu was honored for his research in information, computing and communication.

The AAAS, publisher of the journal Science, is the world’s largest general scientific society. In all, the ASU professors were part of 412 AAAS fellows chosen this year for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science and its applications.

Election as a fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. Within that general framework, each awardee is honored for contributions to a specific field.

The three ASU faculty members' election this year brings the total number of AAAS fellows affiliated with ASU to 79.

Bertram Jacobs is currently serving as the director of the School of Life Sciences and a professor of virology. As a member of Biodesign Institute's Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy, his research is focused on developing a vaccine for HIV — one that prevents infection or extends the lives of HIV patients. Jacobs also leads a group of students every summer to sub-Saharan Africa to teach AIDS prevention to the international community.

Jacobs is one of the world’s foremost experts on a poxvirus called vaccinia, a cousin of the smallpox virus. He has genetically engineered vaccinia as a vehicle against a number of infectious agents, bioterrorism threats, cancer and other viruses, including HIV, and has received the Academic Innovator of the Year Award from the Arizona Technology Council.

Bertram Jacobs
ASU professor Bertram Jacobs

Jacobs is co-founder of a nonprofit called HEAL International that has taught HIV/AIDS prevention in rural Tanzania for 10 years.

He also assists HIV/AIDS-related support organizations. He currently serves on the board of directors for Aunt Rita’s Foundation, on the advisory board for Support for International Change, and on the board of directors for HEAL.

Hal Smith is a professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. His research focuses on differential equations, dynamical systems and their applications to the biological sciences.

Differential equations constitute the basic language of how things change with time or with space, or with both: Newton's second law of motion (a unit of force is equal to a unit of mass of an object times the acceleration of an object) being the most well-known example.

ASU professor Hal Smith.

When looking at a biological system, for example, changes in the number of susceptible, infected and recovered individuals as an epidemic progresses, are often quite different than those that arise in the physical sciences.

His more theoretical work, the subject of two monographs, is directed toward developing new mathematical tools that facilitate understanding the long-term behavior of solutions of differential equations arising in biology. He also works on applying these methods to particular problems including modeling the microbial community of the mammalian gut, the in-vivo dynamics of the HIV virus infection of immune cells and antibiotic treatment of bacterial infections.

Huan Liu is a professor of Computer Science and Engineering within the School of Computing, Informatics, Decision Systems Engineering at the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering. Liu's research focuses on feature selection and social computing, developing computational methods that deal with massive or high-dimensional data (web, text and social media), increasing the speed of data mining and machine learning, and designing efficient algorithms to enable effective problem-solving and real-world applications where intelligent systems play a pivotal role.

ASU professor Huan Liu
ASU Professor Huan Lui

Liu is also a fellow of IEEE, editor of the section on Data Mining and Management in the open access journal, Frontiers in Big Data, which provides a centralized pool of cutting-edge knowledge in machine learning, cybersecurity, data mining and other data-related disciplines. 

His research on social media data mining has tackled the role of social media on the Arab Spring and students in the Data Mining and Machine Learning Lab have delved into areas that are as fresh as today’s headlines — including the detection of “fake news” on social media.

One study conducted by ASU students determined that almost 10 percent of active users in a topic were actually bots. And those bots generated nearly 40 percent of the content.

The new ASU fellows will be recognized for their contributions to science and technology, presented with an official certificate, and given a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin at the Fellows Forum to be held on Feb. 16 during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.