Brown Engineering’s Swartz Named AAAS Fellow

For distinguished contributions to science, professor Sharon Swartz has been elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society, has elected Brown University professor Sharon Swartz as fellow, an honor she shares with Brown biology professor Stephen Helfand, among others, and which she will formally receive at the AAAS annual meeting in Austin, Texas, in February 2018.

Swartz, a professor of engineering and biology, won election "for distinguished contributions to the field of biomechanics, particularly for deeply integrating engineering and biology to study the aeromechanics of flight in bats," according to AAAS.

In her research, Swartz and collaborators have discovered many of the specialized motions and anatomical features that endow bats with their amazing aerial abilities. In the last few years, she has co-authored several papers describing, for example, how tiny muscles in bat wings control their stiffness and shape, and that bats fold in their wings on the upstroke to save energy.

Swartz said Brown has been a conducive setting for building a team around biology and engineering.

"Brown's institutional culture of collaboration, particularly across disciplinary boundaries, has been instrumental to our lab's successes," she said. "Moving across biological and physical sciences has been easy, and valued, at Brown in a way that isn't common in the academic world. I couldn't have created the lab we have today at most institutions."

Swartz also praised AAAS's mission of science outreach and promotion.

"I feel very honored to be elected a fellow of AAAS, a unique scientific society, whose role has never been more critical," she said. "AAAS supports science, scientists and humanity in many ways — increasing public interest and engagement with science, helping scientists communicate more effectively with journalists and the public, promoting responsible use of science in public policy, contributing to the strength and diversity of the STEM workforce, and advancing international scientific cooperation."

By David Orenstein