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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 30, 2006

UI's Davidson, Kaaret, Smirl, Wiemer Elected 2006 AAAS Fellows

Four University of Iowa faculty members -- three in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and one in the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine -- have been awarded the distinction of 2006 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science.

They are:

--Beverly Davidson, Roy J. Carver Biomedical Research Chair in Internal Medicine and UI professor of internal medicine, molecular physiology and biophysics, and neurology, UI Carver College of Medicine.

--Philip E. Kaaret, associate professor, CLAS Department of Physics and Astronomy.

--Arthur L. Smirl, Lowell Battershell Chair in Laser Engineering and professor, CLAS Department of Physics and Astronomy.

--David F. Wiemer, UI Collegiate Fellow, professor and chair, CLAS Department of Chemistry.

The four UI recipients are among 449 individuals elected this year by peers. AAAS members are elevated to the rank of "Fellow" because their efforts to advance science or its applications are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished. The new Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a rosette pin on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007 at the AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

Beverly Davidson, who earned her doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1987 and joined the UI faculty in 1994, was elected to the medical sciences section for her outstanding contributions to the field of neurogenetic diseases, particularly for developing novel methods of treating fatal inherited recessive and dominant brain diseases. Davidson, who also serves as director of the Gene Transfer Vector Core, associate director of the Iowa Center for Gene Therapy and vice chair for research in the Department of Internal Medicine, has focused her research on inherited genetic diseases that affect brain function. In particular, she studies RNA interference, also known as gene silencing, and its application in treating dominantly inherited disorders, like Huntington's disease, that are caused by abnormal sequence repeats within a gene. A second area of interest is gene therapy approaches to treat childhood onset neurodegenerative diseases caused by enzyme deficiencies.

Philip E. Kaaret, who received his doctorate from Princeton University in 1989 and joined the UI faculty in 2004, was elected to the astronomy section for distinguished contributions to observational high-energy astrophysics, particularly for efforts to uncover the physical nature of ultra-luminous X-ray sources. Earlier this year, Kaaret and colleagues reported finding a star orbiting a "medium-sized" black hole -- about 1,000 times more massive than the sun -- in the nearby starburst galaxy M82, a development that may help explain how medium-sized black holes form and evolve. His main research interest is understanding the intense gravitational fields surrounding black holes and neutron stars and the dynamics of the accretion of matter onto these objects. He conducts observations at X-ray, optical, and radio wavelengths of objects in our Milky Way galaxy and in relatively nearby galaxies.

Arthur L. Smirl, who received his doctorate from the University of Arizona in 1975 and joined the UI faculty in 1988, was elected to the physics section for innovative contributions to the advancement of ultrafast semiconductor science and technology and for distinguished service to his profession. At his UI Laboratory for Photonics and Quantum Electronics, his work in experimental quantum optics involves nonlinear optical techniques with femtosecond (one millionth of one billionth of a second) time resolution used to measure quantum mechanical phenomena and coherence in semiconductors. He has research interests in the fields of optical properties of semiconductors, ultrafast photonics, nonlinear optics, and laser physics.

David F. Wiemer, who received his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1976 and joined the UI faculty in 1978, was elected to the chemistry section for distinguished contributions in organic chemistry. His internationally recognized research, particularly in the synthesis and evaluation of medicinally active natural products, organophosphorous compounds, and enzyme inhibitors, has produced more than 140 publications in chemistry and biochemistry journals. He has received grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Breast Cancer Research Program, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

The non-profit AAAS ( was founded in 1848 and includes 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Its 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. For the latest research news, log onto the AAAS Web site EurekAlert! at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,