University of Utah professors Shelley Minteer and Glenn Prestwich were recognized by their peers as 2018 Fellows for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in an announcement on Nov. 27.
The award is given to exemplary AAAS members for achievement across disciplines. Minteer and Prestwich join 414 other members across the nation in this honor. Of the association’s 24 sections, both professors were awarded in Chemistry. The AAAS said, “Examples of areas in which nominees may have made significant contributions are research; teaching; technology; services to professional societies; administration in academe, industry, and government; and communicating and interpreting science to the public.” This along with the four years minimum membership in the Association provides ground for a nomination.
Both University of Utah fellows affirmed their belief in the awards in increasing scientific exposure. Recognitions of this degree have quantifiable long-run consequences for any field. Any means of generating interest improves further efforts in finding funding, working-hands and engaging a captivated audience.
Both fellows stressed the importance of students in their research: “My students do all of the work,” Minteer said. “I’m surprised by how positive my students are. They understand that any given idea will fail four, five, or six times.” Similarly, while discussing failure and research, Prestwich said, “An experiment designed to fail is a good experiment. If an experiment results in exactly the way you predict then nothing is learned. It is the unexpected results that create a real breakthrough.”
Prestwich came from an academic background where mixing business and academia was intellectual heresy. That changed when he realized the direct role scientific discovery can have on people’s lives and how they benefit as consumers. “Every new discovery creates a new company, and every new company creates interest in the next discovery,” Prestwich said. In his own mentoring, he has looked to instill in each student this same drive to entrepreneurship for the advancement of science as he has done with medicinal chemistry.
Both Minteer and Prestwich have enjoyed the disciplinary cross-over their research has achieved. “I have students in chemistry, biology and engineering among others,” said Minteer. “I organize my students to work in teams. They need to learn to teach each other.” With her research crossing borders between the physical sciences and biology, to her the advancement of science means collaboration. Prestwich also stressed the importance of his students being effective science communicators. “A scientist’s research and experiments are only effective so long as it can be easily explained to everyone else.” He attributes a lot of the current anti-science activism found in modern politics coming from the scientific community’s inability or unwillingness to effectively communicate information.
Reflecting on her award, Minteer said that, “chemistry facilities and infrastructure have greatly improved since I first arrived at the U. Through gifts from the Thatcher family and many other donors, my students and I have phenomenal facilities to do research within the Thatcher Building for Biological and Biophysical Chemistry. I just want to say thank you for that.”
Minteer and Prestwich will be officially awarded at next the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting held in Washington, D.C.