AAAS honors Aster, Ranu as new Fellows

photo collage of scientists Rick Aster and Rajinder Ranu

Professor Rick Aster in the Warner College of Natural Resources (left) and Dr. Rajinder Ranu, professor emeritus in the College of Agricultural Sciences, are among the AAAS members honored with the lifetime designation. Photos: CSU Photography

Two Colorado State University faculty members have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Considered one of the most distinctive honors within the scientific community, the award has been bestowed annually since 1874 by the AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals.

Professor Rick Aster, head of the Department of Geosciences in the Warner College of Natural Resources, and Dr. Rajinder Ranu, professor emeritus of cell and molecular biology, molecular genetics, microbiology and plant pathology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, are among the AAAS members honored with the lifetime designation.

The 2021 class of AAAS Fellows — recognized for scientifically and socially distinguished achievements — includes 564 scientists, engineers and innovators spanning 24 scientific disciplines.

Honors in geology and geography, medical sciences

Aster is being recognized for “distinguished contributions to earthquake and volcano seismology, seismic imaging, inverse problems, signal processing, cryospheric and fluvial seismology, Antarctic geophysics and seismological instrumentation.” He is also being honored for exemplary service to the community.

Jeffrey Freymueller, Endowed Chair for Geology of the Solid Earth at Michigan State University, said the recognition for Aster is “great news.”

“In addition to Rick’s research contributions in seismology, he literally wrote the book when it comes to inverse problems and parameter estimation in the geosciences, said Freymuller, also an AAAS Fellow. “A full generation or more of graduate students have now learned critical tools and techniques by taking a course centered around Rick’s book.”

Robert Woodward, a geophysicist and president of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, said Aster is an outstanding scientist and educator with a broad range of research interests and discoveries across the planet.

“Rick’s research, often involving major field experiments in remote regions, including the Arctic and Antarctica, have furthered our understanding of Earth on a wide range of spatial and time scales,” he said. Aster currently chairs the Board of Directors of the Research Institutions for Seismology, a consortium of over 100 U.S. universities.

Ranu was elected in the Medical Sciences section for “distinguished contributions to molecular biology, particularly in discovery and characterization of factors involved in protein synthesis,” and for working to increase diversity in the student and faculty population at CSU.

He holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Panjab University in India and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.

His work regarding immature red blood cells — reticulocytes — has resulted in a series of important and broad-based contributions to iron deficiency anemias, said Ram Sriram, a nominator and chief of the Software & System Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the nation’s oldest physical science laboratories.

In addition to his biomedical research, Ranu has also made major contributions to molecular biology involving the cloning of genes of biotechnological importance in ornamental plants.

“Rajinder’s research has led to the cloning of a variety of genes from roses and geraniums involved in ethylene biosynthesis,” Sriram said. “Many of these genes are now patented — a first at Colorado State University.”

Sriram and other officials who nominated Ranu pointed out major scientific contributions he has made, including the discovery of three key factors involved in the initiation of protein synthesis and expanding research in plant molecular biology and biotechnology.

Among today’s brightest minds

Sudip Parikh, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals, said that the new fellows are among today’s brightest minds who are integral to forging our path into the future.

“We celebrate these distinguished individuals for their invaluable contributions to the scientific enterprise,” he said.

Aster and Ranu join more than 110 researchers from CSU, going back to the 1920s, who have been named AAAS Fellows.

The new fellows will be celebrated later this year during an in-person gathering when it is feasible from a public health and safety perspective. The new class will also be featured in the AAAS News & Notes section of Science in January 2022.