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Biology professor becomes 5th at UH to reach prestigious AAAS status

HOUSTON, Feb. 2, 2009 Stuart Dryer, the John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and biology department chair at the University of Houston, has been awarded the distinction of fellow from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society and each year honors those who have made distinguished contributions to the advancement of science. A candidate must be nominated by three current AAAS fellows and then reviewed by an AAAS committee in their respective fields. This prestigious career distinction has been achieved by only a handful of other UH faculty, and Dryer will be recognized Feb. 20 at the association's annual meeting in San Diego.

Fellows span the range of scientific fields, and Dryer was chosen by the AAAS neuroscience committee for his work in the field of molecular physiology and in the long-term regulation of ion channel gating and trafficking. Dryer's research on ion channels a type of protein found in cell membranes could lead to new treatments for cancer, asthma and kidney diseases.

Ion channels regulate a cell's electrical activity by acting as tiny gates, opening and closing to allow charged particles inside the cells. Dryer's most recent paper explored the role of ion channels in kidney cells. In many forms of kidney disease, certain ion channels become hyperactive and lead to protein in the urine. This research could lead to the development of a molecule that can reduce the number of those ion channels on the surface of cells.

"Being named an AAAS fellow is one of the top honors a scientist can achieve," said John Bear, dean of UH's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "But this news is more than just a major career milestone for Professor Dryer it demonstrates the growing recognition within the scientific community that UH is a world-class center for research and education."

Dryer was nominated by Stanley Appel, the neurology chair at Houston's Methodist Hospital, as well as two other senior fellows, all of whom are required to be current AAAS members. Steering groups of the association's 24 sections reviewed nominations of each individual within its respective section, and a final list was forwarded to the AAAS Council that then voted on the final list of recipients.

The council is the policymaking body of AAAS, chaired by its president and consisting of its board of directors, the retiring section chairs, and delegates from each electorate and regional division, as well as two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science.

Dryer is now the fifth current UH faculty member to be named an AAAS fellow. B. Montgomery Pettitt, the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Physics, Computer Science, Biology and Biochemistry at UH, was selected a fellow last year.

"UH's growing cadre of AAAS fellows is another indicator that the university is headed rapidly toward tier one status," Dryer said. "UH provides an environment where scientists can be successful at the highest level, and I think we'll have more AAAS fellows in the coming years."

AAAS publishes Science, which along with Nature, is one of the most prestigious scientific journals. Getting even one article published in one of those journals is a major accomplishment, and Dryer has had a combined total of five papers published in those journals.

Dryer received his doctorate from St. Louis University and joined UH in 1997 after serving as a visiting researcher at Harvard Medical School and then an associate professor at Florida State University.


Contact: Lisa Merkl
University of Houston

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