Neurologist named 2020 AAAS Fellow

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Stefan Pulst. Photo credit: Charlie Ehlert.

Stefan M. Pulst, professor at University of Utah Health and chair of the Department of Neurology, is among 489 newly elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

AAAS members are awarded this honor because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Pulst joins 130 other Fellows either currently or formerly affiliated with the university, including Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Reed. The U’s first Fellow was geologist and former university president James Talmage, elected in 1906. Pulst will be the first Utah member of the AAAS section on Neuroscience.

This year’s AAAS Fellows will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on November 27. A virtual Fellows Forum—an induction ceremony for the new Fellows—will be held on February 13, 2021.

Pulst was elected for “distinguished contributions to neurology, including discovery of genes responsible for ataxias and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and for leadership in professional organizations and academic departments of neurology.” His clinical and research interests focus on inherited diseases of the nervous system with an emphasis on spinocerebellar ataxias and Parkinson’s disease.

Earlier this year, Pulst and his research team reached a milestone, when a unique treatment for ALS entered human clinical trials based on their research in animals. The experimental drug is one of a new class of next-generation therapies that address the root cause of the disease: the genetic code.

“I am very honored by my election as an AAAS fellow,” Pulst says. “I would never have expected that discovery of the mutations underlying a rare neurodegenerative disease would eventually lead to investigations of RNA-based therapies for more common diseases such as movement disorders and ALS. As a physician, I am very excited to explore these new molecules for therapies of neurological diseases that do not have treatments at this point.”

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the association’s 24 sections, 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), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Fellows must have been continuous members of AAAS for four years by the end of the calendar year in which they are elected. AAAS Fellow’s lifetime honor comes with an expectation that recipients maintain the highest standards of professional ethics and scientific integrity.

Each steering group reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section, and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.