Howard Young Elected to AAAS Fellowship

By Samuel Lopez, staff writer
Howard Young speaking at a podium

Young speaking at an event in 2014. (Photo from the SPGM archive)

What do Nikola Tesla; National Science Board vice chair and former astronaut Ellen Ochoa, Ph.D.; and NCI Frederick’s own Howard Young, Ph.D., have in common? They’re all fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Young is among the newest additions to the esteemed group, recently elected as a 2022 fellow alongside 504 other distinguished contributors to the sciences.

AAAS aims to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all,” according to the organization’s website. The AAAS Council elects fellows annually in recognition of the individuals’ achievements in science and related disciplines.

“I am greatly honored by being elected an AAAS fellow,” Young said. “To me, it represents that my colleagues have deemed my scientific career worthy of recognition. This is very important to me as my scientific career is nearing its end.”

With the election, Young joins the ranks of other AAAS fellows at NCI Frederick and Frederick National Laboratory, which include John Beutler, Ph.D., Molecular Targets Program; Jeffrey Lifson, M.D., AIDS and Cancer Virus Program; and Sandra Wolin, M.D., Ph.D., RNA Biology Laboratory.

According to AAAS, candidates must be members of the society for four years before being nominated for fellowship, and their “efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished.” Fellows have included winners of prestigious prizes and awards, including the Nobel Prize, as well as leading scientists and professors at institutions worldwide.

Young, an “elder statesman” both at NCI Frederick and within the National Institutes of Health immunology community, is no exception. The senior investigator in the Cancer Innovation Laboratory is a well-known and well-liked presence, having led or supported numerous programs since coming to Frederick in 1983. Last year, the Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research celebrated his contributions and career with an issue dedicated to him.

Among his laboratory’s accomplishments is the development of four autoimmune disease models that closely mimic the diseases in humans. These have ben widely recognized for their value and importance to research.

“One of the best parts of working in science is finding that your hypothesis turns out to be true. Additionally, having the freedom to explore questions that are outside of the expected norm is very rewarding when they yield unexpected results,” Young said, citing the models as one example.

For him, science is a chance to help complete a bigger picture. Often, that means stepping into uncharted territory, much in the spirit of an AAAS fellow. Risk looms close by, but every success means important progress.

“Most of us represent a small part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, and it becomes incredibly fulfilling to fit a piece, no matter how small, into the puzzle,” he said.

Yet Young also sees science as a community, whether it be training the next generation of scientists or working with his team and external colleagues to forge ahead through challenges.

He dutifully maintains a gallery in honor of the dozens of trainees who passed through the lab over the years, many to clinics, professorships, or their own labs. He’s also known in some circles as a co-founder of NCI Frederick’s beloved Werner H. Kirsten Student Intern Program. After over 30 years of existence, it has given more than 1,300 high school students hands-on experiences in biomedical science and connected fields.

In a way, that’s a representation of AAAS’ mission, too. Young, the newly minted AAAS fellow, shows that science—sometimes considered byzantine, insular, and stoic—isn’t just about advancing discoveries but also about advancing people. The pursuit of making the world better is an exercise in humanity and camaraderie.

Or, to use an old-fashioned word, fellowship.


Other AAAS fellows from NCI Frederick and Frederick National Laboratory include:

  • John Beutler, Ph.D. (elected 2019)
  • Nancy Colburn, Ph.D. (2012)**
  • Jeffrey Lifson, M.D. (2020)
  • Stephen O’Brien, Ph.D. (1998)*
  • George Vande Woude, Ph.D. (2014)**
  • David Wink, Ph.D. (2008)
  • Sandra Wolin, M.D., Ph.D. (2013)
  • Michael Yarmolinsky, Ph.D. (1989)*

* Former employee
** Deceased


Samuel Lopez leads the editorial team in Scientific Publications, Graphics & Media (SPGM). He writes for newsletters; informally serves as an institutional historian; and edits scientific manuscripts, corporate documents, and sundry other written media. SPGM is the creative services department and hub for editing, illustration, graphic design, formatting, multimedia, and training in these areas.

Young’s laboratory maintains a gallery of past trainees and interns. (Photo contributed by Howard Young)