UH Biology Professor Awarded Prestigious AAAS Honor

By Rolando Garcia
Natural Sciences and Mathematics

A University of Houston biology professor was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a  prestigious career distinction achieved by only a handful of other UH faculty.

Stuart Dryer, the John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and also the biology department chair, was notified of his selection in December. He – along with this year’s other newly chosen fellows – will be recognized  Feb. 20 at the association’s annual meeting in San Diego.

AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and each year honors those have made distinguished contributions to the advancement of science. A candidate must be nominated by three current AAAS fellow and then reviewed by a AAAS committee in their respective fields.

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.

“Being named a 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’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.

His 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.

Dryer was nominated by Stanley Appel, the neurology chair at Houston’s Methodist Hospital and he is now the fifth current UH faculty member to be named a AAAS fellow. Montgomery Pettitt, the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Professor of Chemistry at UH, was selected a fellow last year.

UH’s growing cadre of AAAS fellows is another indicator that the university is headed rapidly towards 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,” Dryer said.

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.