A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Bio Professors Named AAAS Fellows


Sharon Swartz and Stephen Helfand were elected for “distinguished contributions” to their fields.

Members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, have elected Brown University professors Sharon Swartz and Stephen Helfand as fellows, an honor they will formally receive at the AAAS annual meeting in Austin, Texas, in February 2018.

Stephen Helfand

Stephen Helfand

Helfand, MD, a professor of biology, earned his honor “for distinguished contributions to the field of molecular and translational aging research, particularly for identifying molecular genetic pathways underlying aging and human disease,” the AAAS said in the announcement. In 2016, for example, he was the senior author of a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which his team provided substantial new evidence that health becomes endangered when aging cells lose control of rogue elements of DNA called transposons.

Swartz, PhD, a professor of biology and of engineering, won election “for distinguished contributions to the field of biomechanics, particularly for deeply integrating engineering and biology to study the aeromechanics of flight in bats,” according to the AAAS.

In her research, Swartz and collaborators have discovered many of the specialized motions and anatomical features that endow bats with their amazing aerial abilities. In the last few years, she has co-authored several papers describing, for example, how tiny muscles in bat wings control their stiffness and shape, and that bats fold in their wings on the upstroke to save energy.

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