COURTESY OF ILLINOIS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Washington D.C.—Ben Stark, a resident of Oak Park and a professor of biology and associate dean for research at Illinois Institute of Technology, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

This year 401 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. New Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Saturday, 14 February from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, Calif.

This year’s AAAS Fellows will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on 28 November 2014. Stark was elected as an AAAS Fellow for contributions to the discovery of catalytic RNA, development of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin technology, and education at the university and elementary-school levels.

Stark earned a Ph.D. and an M.Ph. at Yale University and a B.S. from the University of Michigan. He discovered that the tRNA precursor processing enzyme RNase P contains an RNA component that is required for its catalytic activity, in the laboratory of his doctoral advisor at Yale, Sidney Altman, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research on the catalytic properties of RNA. Stark with others has described how genetic engineering of bacteria with Vitreoscilla hemoglobin (VHb) can enhance production of useful bioproducts as well as degradation of toxic chemicals, and has also investigated many aspects of the protein’s structure and function. One aspect of the work may lead to enhanced production of ethanol from biomass.

A popular and award-winning teacher at IIT, Stark also has done science demonstrations for grade school students in Oak Park, Ill., for more than 20 years.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the Association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Fellows must have been continuous members of AAAS for four years by the end of the calendar year in which they are elected.

Each steering group reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.

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

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