LAURELS: Europe Honors Biologist Nunnari


Distinguished Professor Jodi Nunnari, chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology in the College of Biological Sciences, has been elected an associate member of the European Molecular Biology Organization, or EMBO.

Jodi Nunnari headshot

“Jodi’s election is particularly noteworthy in that this is a high honor for a U.S. citizen, and she is the first member of UC Davis faculty to receive this recognition,” said Mark Winey, dean of the College of Biological Sciences.

Nunnari studies mitochondria, tiny structures that provide energy to living cells and are implicated in a wide range of diseases, including heart disease, stroke and inherited conditions.

EMBO aims to promote excellence in the life sciences in Europe and beyond, and, according to Maria Leptin, the organization’s director, the new members have lived up to that mission through their contributions to successful research around the world.

Now, “as EMBO members they can help to shape the future through EMBO’s work to support talented researchers, bring ideas together and promote an international research environment conducive to excellent science,” Leptin said in a news release.

Founded in 1963, EMBO has conferred membership on more than 1,800 scientists to date. Membership is a lifetime honor.

The newest class of 63, announced July 7, comprises 52 members from 18 member states of the European Molecular Biology Conference, EMBO’s intergovernmental funding body. The other 11 are associate members in Australia, Canada, Chile, India, Japan, Singapore and the United States. Forty-four percent of the new members are women

Sharon Strauss, sitting in a field.
Professor Sharon Strauss: Recipient of the American Society of Naturalists’ Sewall Wright Award.

Sharon Strauss, professor of evolution and ecology, College of Biological Sciences, is the recipient of the American Society of Naturalists’ Sewall Wright Award for 2020. Established in 1991, the award honors a senior and active investigator “promoting the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.”

“Sharon was an early proponent of integrating ecological and evolutionary research, before ‘ecoevolutionary dynamics’ was a buzzword,” the awards committee wrote.

Her research interests include the evolutionary ecology of plants and their interactions with other species, reconstructing pathways to ecological specialization, and the application of evolution to biodiversity, disease and resource management, among other topics.

Strauss is a former president of the American Society of Naturalists (2018), and received its Jasper Loftus-Hills Young Investigator Award in 1990.

Recent recognition by federal agencies:

Satya Dandekar headshot

●︎ Satya Dandekar, professor, School of Medicine — Recipient of a MERIT Award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease for her critical work on mechanisms of HIV and viral persistence. MERIT stands for Method to Extend Research in Time. The National Institutes of Health (including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease) gives the awards in recognition of superior competence and stellar records of scientific achievement. Dandekar is chair of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and has a joint appointment in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases.

Joanne Emerson headshot

●︎ Joanne Emerson, assistant professor, Department of Plant Pathology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences — She is among 76 recipients of project funding from the Early Career Research Program of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Under the program, university-based researchers receive grants of at least $150,000 per year for five years, covering salary and research expenses. Emerson’s funding is through the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the DOE’s Office of Science. The abstract describing Emerson’s project says it “will expand our understanding of the global soil virosphere and its influence on global biogeochemical cycles.”

The Council of UC Staff Assemblies, or CUCSA, announced Maricel Lumaquin of UC Davis Health as the recipient of the council’s Kevin McCauley Memorial Outstanding Staff Award for 2020.

Maricel Lumaquin headshot

According to CUCSA, the annual award recognizes staff members who are supportive and inclusive of other staff, who encourage equity, diversity and community, and who are forward thinking and do not compromise quality. The award is named after a staff member at UC Santa Barbara and the Office of the President, who, during his nearly 20 years with UC, became well known across the system for his advocacy on behalf of staff and students, and for his outreach and relationship building in communities around UC locations. CUCSA established the award in 2015, the year he died.

The council described Lumaquin, data analyst at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, as an advocate for staff engagement and diversity and inclusion, who also works beyond her campus — for example, during the pandemic, when she was involved in the distribution of more than 1,000 bags of groceries and fresh produce to underserved communities in Sacramento. She also promotes and supports the Sacramento campus’s food pantry, a volunteer and donation-driven program for staff and students.

Lumaquin is a member of Staff Assembly and the Staff Advisory Committee for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and volunteers for Thank Goodness for Staff and outreach programs, including tabling at major community events. She served on the Staff Engagement Survey Committee and the School of Nursing’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.

Read more about her.

The Emeriti Association announced the recipients of Edward A. Dickson Professor Emeritus/a Professorship Awards for 2020:

Suad Joseph headshot

●︎ Suad Joseph, departments of Anthropology, and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, for the development of a gendered and cultural framework for assessing the mental health of Arab and other vulnerable populations (refugees, displaced people) exposed to violence in Lebanon, West Bank/Palestine and Egypt. She noted in her abstract that mental health assessments heretofore in the Arab region have focused largely on the application of standard Western diagnostic tools, and has ignored the gendered hierarchies inscribed in local patriarchal structures, the local notions of personhood nested in family and community, and the histories of rapid economic/political transformations, social upheaval, wars, displacement and violence that have upended whole nations. She sees the gendered and cultural framework as a means to reduce mental health disparities.

Robert Rucker headshot

●︎ Robert B. Rucker, Department of Nutrition, to continue his research on the physiological importance of pyrroloquinoline quinone, or PQQ. Descriptions of PQQ’s attributes, according to Rucker’s abstract, range from neonatal survival benefits to anti-aging-related effects. Rucker studied “The Chemical Properties of a Novel Dietary Biofactor: Pyrroloquinoline Quinone” with a Dickson Professorship Award in 2013.


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