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UW’s Benkman, Gomelsky Named AAAS Fellows

November 20, 2017
photos of Craig Benkman and Mark Gomelsky

Two University of Wyoming researchers have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society.

They are evolutionary ecologist and ornithologist Craig Benkman, professor in the Department of Zoology and Physiology, and the Robert B. Berry Distinguished Chair in Ecology; and Mark Gomelsky, professor in the Department of Molecular Biology.

Benkman is being honored “for distinguished contributions to the field of evolutionary ecology, particularly for long-term and continuing studies on the ecological and biogeographic processes underling evolutionary diversification.”

Gomelsky’s honor is “for discoveries of light-controlled bacterial signal transduction pathways, and for fundamental work on the role of the second messenger cyclic di-GMP in controlling bacterial pathogenesis.”

They will receive the awards during the AAAS annual meeting Feb. 17 in Austin, Texas.

Benkman’s primary research focuses on the processes that have contributed to the adaptive radiation of a group of conifer-seed-eating birds called crossbills. This is where species all deriving from a common ancestor have, over time, diversified into multiple species as a result of natural selection.

To date, Benkman is credited with 93 publications appearing in such journals as the American Naturalist, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Evolution and Ecology Letters, with over 4,200 citations of his publications. He has garnered more than $1.5 million in federal and private funds. He received the E.O. Wilson Naturalist Award from the American Society of Naturalists in 2014 in recognition of his research contributions.

Benkman came to UW in 2004 from New Mexico State University, where he was a faculty member for 11 years. He was a postdoctoral fellow at both the University of British Columbia and Princeton University; received his doctorate from the State University of New York-Albany; a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University; and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley.

Gomelsky joined the UW Department of Molecular Biology in 1999 as an assistant professor and became a full professor in 2011. His research focus includes bacterial signal transduction, synthetic biology, optogenetics and metabolic engineering. Gomelsky and members of his interdisciplinary team specifically are looking for ways to use bacteria and the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Earlier this year, he received the 2016 Jack Kenney Award for Outstanding Service from the Journal of Bacteriology.

In 2016, two papers by Gomelsky’s laboratory were nominated by the editorial board members of Journal of Bacteriology to represent the 100 most influential papers published in this journal since 1916. The Gomelsky papers published in 2005 helped open a new field in bacterial signaling.

Gomelsky received a Ph.D. from the Institute for Genetics and Selection of Industrial Microorganisms in Moscow, Russia; and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the Moscow Institute for Chemical Technology. He did postdoctoral research at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. The AAAS, founded in 1848, includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, and serves 10 million individuals. The association also publishes the journal Science ( as well as Science Translational Medicine ( and Science Signaling (

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