UF Health researcher elected as fellow of prominent scientific group

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Laura P.W. Ranum, Ph.D., has been named a fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which recognizes those who make distinguished scientific advances.

Ranum is director of the UF Center for NeuroGenetics and the Kitzman Family professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of molecular genetics and microbiology. She was recognized for distinguished contributions to molecular and translational neuroscience. Ranum studies genetic mutations that cause neurologic diseases such as ataxia, myotonic dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.  Many of these diseases are caused when three or more letters of the genetic code are repeated too many times. Ranum’s lab showed that these expanded stretches of repeat DNA can cause cells to make unexpected and unwanted proteins, which can accumulate in patients’ brains. Her work has changed scientists’ basic understanding of how microsatellite expansion mutations contribute to neurodegenerative diseases.

Ranum said she was extremely honored to be recognized by AAAS, while also noting that her laboratory’s research successes have been a shared effort. In particular, she cited the work on RAN translation done by Tao Zu, M.D., a research assistant professor in her lab.

“I have been fortunate to have such a productive lab and to have had the opportunity to work with so many talented colleagues over the years, including graduate students and postdoctoral associates. This recognition represents a lot of teamwork for a long period of time,” Ranum said.

Ranum is one of 391 members who were elected as fellows this year by the AAAS, a tradition that began in 1874. She joins four other UF faculty members who were recognized this year. Overall, UF has had 46 other professors recognized as AAAS fellows, including UF President Kent Fuchs.

The AAAS is a nonprofit group dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people. It is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society and a leading publisher of cutting-edge research through its journals.