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Neuroscientist Susan Amara Named AAAS President-Elect

Susan Amara
Susan Amara will become AAAS president-elect in February. | Courtesy Susan Amara

Susan Amara, scientific director of the Division of Intramural Research Programs at the National Institute of Mental Health, has been selected by the membership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to serve as AAAS’ president-elect.

Amara will begin her term on Feb. 17 at the conclusion of the 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle. After serving for one year as president elect, Amara will subsequently serve one year as AAAS president and one year as chair of the AAAS Board of Directors.

Amara is among the 119 officers selected during the annual election, which was open to all AAAS members from Dec. 3, 2019 through Jan. 6, 2020, including the election of two members of the AAAS Board of Directors, four members of the AAAS Committee on Nominations and officers of AAAS’ 24 discipline-specific sections.

The wide range of disciplines represented by AAAS is one of the organization’s particular strengths, Amara said.

“The opportunity to work with a group encompassing such a scientifically-diverse community to achieve the common mission of advancing ‘science, engineering and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people’ is what motivates me to stand for election,” said Amara in her candidacy statement.

AAAS’ diversity of expertise offers opportunities for collaboration to address the numerous challenges facing today’s world, including climate change, food security and the opiate epidemic, she said, adding that science’s “transformative discoveries and well-validated evidence” are up to clearing such obstacles.

“I really love the idea of being able to have a roomful of really smart and talented people who don't necessarily do exactly the same thing,” Amara added in an interview with AAAS. “Facilitating interactions between different disciplines really lends itself to having more interesting and more effective solutions.”

Amara also emphasized the importance of working collaboratively on a global scale. Most scientists work or study with colleagues from other countries, yet barriers like visa and immigration restrictions can hamper such collaboration. AAAS has a role to play in advocating for “the value of global science,” Amara said.

In her candidacy statement, Amara advocated for AAAS to continue efforts to strengthen early STEM education. Drawing upon her own early-life experiences as a girl interested in science, Amara said she was fortunate to have had inspiring teachers and transformative moments that kept her motivated in her pursuit of a science career. Yet, not all children are so lucky, Amara said, noting that continually improving STEM education can help ensure that the next generation of scientists is broad and diverse.

“Early investments in education provide a basis for a dynamic, well-trained scientific workforce, as well as an informed public, in order to meet the challenges that lie ahead,” she said.

After completing a bachelor’s degree at Stanford University and a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego, Amara held postdoctoral and faculty positions at the Yale University School of Medicine.

While at Yale, she became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and joined Vollum Institute in Portland, Oregon. Later, Amara joined the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she chaired the neurobiology department.

In 2011, Amara served as the president of the Society for Neuroscience, where she gained valuable experience in strategic advocacy and through collaborations with other organizations with similar goals.

Currently, Amara is a senior investigator in the National Institute of Mental Health’s Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, where she researches the movement of neurotransmitters in the brain and the effects of drugs on the transport process.

“As scientists, we have the training and the capacity to solve problems and to help guide public policy,” Amara said in an interview with AAAS. “Right now, is an opportune time for the vital activities AAAS is known for.”

When Amara assumes her role as president-elect in February, the current president-elect, Claire Fraser, will become president for one year. Current president Steven Chu will begin a one-year term as chair of the AAAS Board of Directors. Amara will follow the same sequence, becoming AAAS president in February 2021 and chair of the Board of Directors in February 2022.

2019 Annual Election Results

General Election

President-Elect:  
Susan G. Amara, National Institute of Mental Health/NIMH 
 
Board of Directors:  
Cynthia M. Beall, Case Western University
Alondra Nelson, Social Science Research Council/Institute for Advanced Study  

Committee on Nominations:
Marlene Belfort, University at Albany, the State University of New York  
John G. Hildebrand, University of Arizona
Michael Prather, University of California, Irvine
Esther Takeuchi, Stony Brook University/Brookhaven National Laboratory 
 
 

Section Elections 

Agriculture, Food, and Renewable Resources 

Chair-Elect:
G. Philip Robertson, Michigan State University 

Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Mary Ann Ottinger, University of Houston 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:  
Sylvie M. Brouder, Purdue University
Catherine W. Ernst, Michigan State University 
 
   
Anthropology 

Chair-Elect:
George Robert Milner, Pennsylvania State University 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Leslea J. Hlusko, University of California, Berkeley 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Lyle W. Konigsberg, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jada Benn Torres, Vanderbilt University  
 
 
Astronomy 

Chair-Elect:
Anneila I. Sargent, California Institute of Technology 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:  
Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, Vanderbilt University 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Catharine (Katy) Garmany, NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (Retired)
Rachel A. Osten, Space Telescope Science Institute  
 
 
Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences 

Chair-Elect:
Susan S. Hubbard, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Colette L. Heald, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Sarah B. Kapnick, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
Isabella Velicogna, University of California, Irvine 
 
Council Delegate:
Jennifer Francis, Woods Hole Research Center 
 
 
Biological Sciences  

Chair-Elect:
Nancy Jean Cox, Vanderbilt University Medical Center 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Lara M. Kueppers, University of California, Berkeley 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Daniela Drummond-Barbosa, Johns Hopkins University
Pamela Geyer, University of Iowa 
 
Council Delegates:
Susan E. Celniker, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Carolyn M. Teschke, University of Connecticut 
 
 
Chemistry  

Chair-Elect:
Peter K. Dorhout, Kansas State University 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:  
Julia Chan, The University of Texas at Dallas 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Barbara A. Baird, Cornell University
Karen L. Wooley, Texas A&M University 
 
 
Dentistry and Oral Health Sciences

Chair-Elect:
Ichiro Nishimura, University of California, Los Angeles 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:  
Nisha J. D’Silva, University of Michigan School of Dentistry 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Yang Chai, University of Southern California
Linda M. Kaste, University of Illinois at Chicago College of

Dentistry Council Delegate:  
Catherine E. Ovitt, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry 
 
 
Education  

Chair-Elect:
Melanie M. Cooper, Michigan State University 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Maria Elizabeth Alvarez, El Paso County Community College 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Jeffery P. Braden, North Carolina State University
Sandra S. West, Texas State University 
 
Council Delegate:  
Cynthia M. Bauerle, James Madison University
Kristin P. Jenkins, BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium, Inc. 
 
 
Engineering  

Chair-Elect:
Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, University of California, Davis 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:  
Pramod P. Khargonekar, University of California, Irvine 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:  
Lynnette D. Madsen*, National Science Foundation (*serving in personal capacity)
Georgia Gina Tourassi, Oak Ridge National Laboratory 
 
Council Delegates:
Jacqueline H. Chen, Sandia National Laboratories 
 
  
General Interest in Science and Engineering  

Chair-Elect:
Erika C. Shugart, American Society for Cell Biology 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Marilee Long, Colorado State University 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Sue Nichols, Michigan State University
Jocelyn Steinke, Western Michigan University 
 
Council Delegates:
JoAnn M. Valenti, Emerita 
 
 
Geology and Geography  

Chair-Elect:
Suzanne P. Anderson, University of Colorado Boulder 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Kam-biu Liu, Louisiana State University 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Luis A. González, University of Kansas
Adina Paytan, University of California, Santa Cruz 
 
 
History and Philosophy of Science  

Chair-Elect:  
Jonathan C. Coopersmith, Texas A&M University 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:  
Carol E. Cleland, University of Colorado Boulder 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Kristine C. Harper, University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
Susan D. Jones, University of Minnesota 
 
 
Industrial Science and Technology  

Chair-Elect:
Ernesto E. Marinero, Purdue University 
 
Member-at-Large:
Lizhi Sun, University of California, Irvine 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Vanessa Z. Chan, University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Anne L. Plant, National Institute of Standards and Technology 
 
 
Information, Computing, and Communication  

Chair-Elect:
Nancy M. Amato, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Sven Koenig, University of Southern California 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Julia Gelfand, University of California, Irvine
Dana S. Nau, University of Maryland 
 
Council Delegates:
Benjamin Kuipers, University of Michigan
Edward D. Lazowska, University of Washington 
 
 
Linguistics and Language Science  

Chair-Elect:
Randi C. Martin, Rice University 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:  
Susan E. Brennan, Stony Brook University 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:  
Jane MacNeil, Red Deer College (Canada)
Matthew Wagers, University of California, Santa Cruz 

Council Delegates:
Joan A. Sereno, University of Kansas 
 
 
Mathematics  

Chair-Elect:  
Ken Ono, University of Virginia 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Michel L. Lapidus, University of California, Riverside 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Keri A. Kornelson, University of Oklahoma
Judy L. Walker, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
 
 
Medical Sciences  

Chair-Elect:
David A. Frank, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Gabriela K. Popescu, University at Buffalo 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:  
Lewis A. Chodosh, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Mary Dasso, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 
 
 
Neuroscience  

Chair-Elect:
Judith R. Walters, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke/National Institutes of Health 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Nina F. Schor, National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke/National Institutes of Health 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Peggy Mason, University of Chicago 
Alcino J. Silva, University of California, Los Angeles 
 
Council Delegates:
Jeffrey L. Noebels, Baylor College of Medicine  
 
 
Pharmaceutical Sciences 

Chair-Elect:
Peter J. Houghton, The University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:  
James T. Dalton, University of Michigan 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Thomas L. Poulos, University of California, Irvine
Thomas E. Prisinzano, University of Kentucky 
 
Council Delegates:
Patrick M. Woster, Medical University of South Carolina 

 
Physics  

Chair-Elect:
Susan N. Coppersmith, University of New South Wales (Australia)/University of Wisconsin-Madison 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:  
Melissa A. Hines, Cornell University 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Jonathan L. Feng, University of California, Irvine
Dragana Popovic, National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL)/Florida State University 
 
 
Psychology  

Chair-Elect:
Deanna M. Barch, Washington University 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Diane M. Mackie, University of California, Santa Barbara 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Robert M. Nosofsky, Indiana University
Suparna Rajaram, Stony Brook University 
 
 
Social, Economic, and Political Sciences  

Chair-Elect:
Mary Frank Fox, Georgia Institute of Technology 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Constance A. Nathanson, Columbia University
Suzanne M. Rivera, Case Western Reserve University 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Maria Charles, University of California, Santa Barbara
Virginia Sapiro, Boston University 
 
 
Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering

Chair-Elect:
Melanie Roberts, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Dahlia L. Sokolov, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Evans S. Michelson, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Lori A. Perine, Interpretech 
 
Council Delegates:
Francesca Grifo, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
 
 
Statistics  

Chair-Elect:
Leonard A. Stefanski, North Carolina State University 
 
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee:
Joseph W. Hogan, Brown University 
 
Electorate Nominating Committee:
Sharon-Lise Normand, Harvard Medical School
Elizabeth A. Stuart, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health 
 
Council Delegates:
Nancy Reid, University of Toronto (Canada) 

 

Author

Andrea Korte

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