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4 Pitt faculty members named 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science fellows

  • Technology & Science
  • Faculty
  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • School of Medicine

Four faculty members from the University of Pittsburgh have been named to the most recent class of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellows, one of the most distinct honors within the scientific community — and a historic one as well, dating to 1874.

They are among 564 fellows announced Jan. 26, a group that results from a nominating and vetting process that includes a cadre of scientists, engineers and innovators recognized for achievements across disciplines ranging across research, teaching, administration, industry, government and communications.

The four fellows from Pitt are:

Kay Brummond

Kay Brummond, associate dean of faculty and a professor of chemistry in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, is a synthetic chemist known for her research and her role in promoting women into careers in the sciences. Her lab has made significant contributions in organic chemistry, particularly in modulating chemical reactivity. She is a champion for gender balance and diversity equity in the chemistry field evidenced by her establishing the University of Pittsburgh Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, which offers research opportunities to students from underrepresented groups majoring in chemistry, and serving as the executive director of the 45th National Organic Chemistry Symposium which had the most diverse speaker slate in the history of this meeting. In 2021, she earned the ACS Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences. 

Sarah Gaffen

When Sarah Gaffen first opened her laboratory in 1999, the number of peer-reviewed research papers about IL-17 — a family of pro-inflammatory substances secreted by our immune cells — could be counted on one hand. Now academic publications involving IL-17 number in the tens of thousands, and Gaffen and her colleagues in the past year added three key articles to the list, cracking the code for how IL-17 activates a cascade of cellular signals leading to inflammation in kidney disease and finding a pathway in the mouse model of multiple sclerosis. Their findings could ultimately lead to targeted medications for the growing number of people with autoimmune diseases. Gaffen is the Gerald P. Rodnan Endowed Professor in the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Steven R. Little

Steven R. Little, internationally recognized for his research in pharmaceutics and biomimetic drug delivery systems, is a Distinguished Professor and the only University professor to receive the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service awards. Little, who also serves as the William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Department Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering as well as a faculty member in the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and bioengineering, immunology, ophthalmology and pharmaceutical sciences departments, has developed numerous new drug formulations including controlled drug release that mimics the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation. Unlike traditional medications that require large doses administered via ingestion, inoculation or intravenously, biomimetic treatments recruit a patient’s own cells to treat disease at the source. In particular, Little’s research shows potential new applications for glaucoma, gum disease and even transplant organ rejection. In December, Little also was named to the 2021 fellow class of the National Academy of Inventors, the highest professional distinction accorded to academic inventors.

Jerry Vockley

Jerry Vockley came to UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in 2004 to lead the Division of Medical Genetics, now the Division of Genetics and Genomic Medicine. He also is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the Cleveland Family Endowed Professor in Pediatric Research in the med school and a professor of human genetics at the Graduate School of Public Health. Vockley directs an active research program on inherited disorders of energy and protein metabolism, focused on both understanding the genetic causes of these disorders and developing new treatments for them. His research has earned National Institutes of Health support continuously since the early 1990s. The diseases Vockley treats are all related to defective enzymes, special proteins in the body that carry out chemical reactions.


— Chuck Finder