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February 2011

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James Mason elected AAAS fellow

By Eddy Ball
February 2011

Principal Investigator James Mason, Ph.D.

Newly elected AAAS Fellow James Mason (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

This month, Principal Investigator James Mason, Ph.D., joins a small group of his colleagues at NIEHS who have been honored as fellows of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). The organization will present Mason with a certificate and rosette Feb. 19 in Washington, D.C., during the AAAS Fellows Forum, which is part of the AAAS Annual Meeting(http://meetings.aaas.org/) Exit NIEHS.

Mason(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/atniehs/labs/iidl/pi/freerad/index.cfm) is head of the Drosophila Chromosome Structure Group in the NIEHS Laboratory of Molecular Genetics. He serves on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Biological Sciences and Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology.

Mason's research explores genome stability and DNA repair, an organism's response to the internal stress of replication and to environmental insults, such as ionizing radiation. His group studies chromatin structure and alterations that impact gene expression, especially in regard to the function of structures found at the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres, which play a key role in aging, cancer, and many diseases.

In his congratulatory letter to Mason, AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan Leshner, Ph.D., wrote, "You are being honored for distinguished contributions to the field of chromosome structure, particularly showing that there are alternatives to telomerase in maintaining telomeres, especially the use of transposons." Leshner said that Mason is joining members elected by the AAAS Council each year in recognition of "efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications [which] are scientifically or socially distinguished."

Founded in 1848, AAAS serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, representing 10 million individuals. The AAAS journal Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million.

AAAS began electing fellows in 1874, an honor bestowed upon members by their peers. Fellow nominations may be made by the Steering Groups of the Association's 24 sections, by the chief executive officer, 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. Each nominee must receive the approval of a majority of the Steering Group members.

Mason joined NIEHS in 1978 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Davis. He has published more than 67 peer-reviewed articles in leading biomedical journals, as well as several book chapters. As part of his scientific community service at NIEHS, Mason chairs the NIEHS Committee on Promotion III, which last year developed revised guidelines and procedures for deciding on promotions to GS-12 for scientists working as biologists and chemists in the Institute's Division of Intramural Research (see story(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2010/may/inside-lab.cfm)).

In good company

Mason joins a group of NIEHS scientists elected as AAAS Fellows in previous years:

  • Joel Abramowitz, Ph.D., special assistant to the scientific director
  • Marian Johnson-Thompson, Ph.D., former director of Education and Biomedical Research Development
  • James Putney, Ph.D. principal investigator and head of the Calcium Regulation Group in the Laboratory of Signal Transduction
  • Anne Sassaman, Ph.D., director emeritus of the Division of Extramural Research and Training
  • Barbara Shane, Ph.D., former NTP staff scientist and executive secretary of the NTP Board of Scientific Counselors
  • Samuel Wilson, M.D., principal investigator and head of the DNA Repair & Nucleic Acid Enzymology Group in the Laboratory of Structural Biology
  • Jerrel Yakel, Ph.D., principal investigator and head of the Ion Channel Physiology Group in the Laboratory of Neurobiology

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