Benjamin Stark, professor of biology and associate dean for research at IIT College of Science, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Stark was elected as a fellow for contributions to the discovery of catalytic RNA, development of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin technology, and education at the university and elementary-school levels.
Stark earned a Ph.D. and an M.Ph. at Yale University and a B.S. from the University of Michigan. He discovered that the tRNA precursor processing enzyme RNase P contains an RNA component that is required for its catalytic activity, in the laboratory of his doctoral advisor at Yale, Sidney Altman, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research on the catalytic properties of RNA. Stark with others has described how genetic engineering of bacteria with Vitreoscilla hemoglobin (VHb) can enhance production of useful bioproducts as well as degradation of toxic chemicals, and has also investigated many aspects of the protein’s structure and function. One aspect of the work may lead to enhanced production of ethanol from biomass.
A popular and award-winning teacher at IIT, Stark also has done science demonstrations for grade school students in Oak Park, Ill., for more than 20 years.
The tradition of AAAS fellows began in 1874. This year, 401 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. AAAS fellows will be formally announced in the journal Science on November 28, and new fellows will be honored in February at the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, Calif.