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Research Excellence: Two USU Scientists Named 2012 AAAS Fellows

Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012

USU professor Patricia Lambert

Professor Patricia Lambert, AAAS Fellow

Lance Seefeldt

Professor Lance Seefeldt, AAAS Fellow

Utah State University professors Patricia Lambert and Lance Seefeldt join the elite ranks of the nation’s top scientists as 2012 American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellows.

Election as a fellow is an honor bestowed on AAAS members by their peers in recognition of outstanding efforts to advance science or its applications. Lambert and Seefeldt are among 702 scientists who will be formally recognized at a Feb. 16 ceremony during the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Mass. Their award will also be announced in the Nov. 30, 2012, issue of the journal Science.

“Designation as an AAAS fellow is a distinct honor reserved for the nation’s top scientists,” says USU President Stan Albrecht. “It’s not only an honor for these two professors to be recognized for outstanding contributions in their respective fields, but also for Utah State University.”

Lambert and Seefeldt join James “Jim” MacMahon, trustee professor of biology and dean of USU’s College of Science, who is the university’s only current AAAS fellow.

Lambert, professor in USU’s Department of Sociology, Social Studies and Anthropology, is recognized for her contributions to physical anthropology, especially her research in bioarchaeology and professional service in the ethics and application of repatriation law.

Seefeldt, professor in USU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is honored for his contributions to the advancement of understanding the mechanism of the enzyme nitrogenase.

Patricia Lambert

Lambert, associate dean of research for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, studies health and violence in prehistoric American populations. Her work has been covered on the Discovery and National Geographic channels and published in journals, including Nature.

As a bioarchaeologist, she analyzes ancient human remains to gain insights into the history of infectious disease, and to address larger questions about the causes and consequences of changes in diet, health and patterns of violence. She has documented a strong causal link between drought and warfare in western North America. Not surprisingly, her work requires sensitivity in the treatment and respect for the dead.

From 1999-2010 Lambert served on and later chaired the Repatriation Committee of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA). In this capacity she engaged in national conversations on behalf of the AAPA concerning the interpretation and implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a law designed to empower tribes in decision-making regarding the disposition of ancestral remains and sacred objects.

A professor at USU since 1996, Lambert has helped advance graduate and research opportunities for anthropology students. She oversaw the effort to establish a master’s program in anthropology in 2008 and was part of a research team awarded a $418,000 NSF MRI grant in 2010 to establish the Spatial Data Collection, Analysis and Visualization Lab on campus. She also directs the university’s Museum of Anthropology and the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies.

Lance Seefeldt

Seefeldt, recipient of USU’s 2012 D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award, has pioneered efforts to solve a long-standing mystery of how bacterial enzymes known as nitrogenases convert nitrogen into life-sustaining compounds on which all plants and animals depend. He and his colleagues’ discoveries could have energy-saving implications for the world’s food supply and fuel production.

In addition to his nitrogenase work, Seefeldt, conducts biofuels research, including investigation of the feasibility of using algae as a fuel source. With colleagues in USU’s College of Engineering, Seefeldt was a major player in the establishment of the university’s USTAR Biofuels team. He and his students recently supplied yeast biodiesel developed in Seefeldt’s lab that powered a USU-built dragster to a land-speed record.

Since joining USU in 1993, Seefeldt has secured more than $4 million in extramural funding for his laboratory. He has conducted 72 invited presentations at conferences and universities and has published nearly 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts that have been cited more than 3,000 times in the scientific literature.

Founded in 1848, AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society. The organization includes 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. The tradition of AAAS Fellows was initiated in 1874.

Related links:

Contact: Patricia Lambert, 435-797-2603,

Contact: Lance Seefeldt, 435-797-3964,

Writers: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,; Kristen Munson, (435) 797-0267,

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