Richard Watanabe, professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the associate dean for health and population science programs, was recently elected to the rank of AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) fellow.

Richard Watanabe

Selected by the council each year, AAAS members are elected through a judicious process. Recognizing “efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished,” the honor is among the most prized in academia.

The newly elected AAAS fellows will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. this summer. USC faculty members Carolyn C. Meltzer, Massoud Pedram, Remo Rohs were also announced as AAAS fellows.

Watanabe was named a 2022 AAAS fellow for his “distinguished contributions to the identification and interpretation of genetic variation underlying Type 2 diabetes-related traits, administration and training in statistical genetics.”

“It is an honor to be recognized by the AAAS and to join the ranks of those who were previously named fellows,” Watanabe said. “The accomplishments for which I am being recognized would not have been possible without the support of my mentors, research team and numerous colleagues. This honor is equally theirs as it is mine.”

Watanabe’s research focuses on the abnormal physiological processes and genetics of Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Over the course of his career, he has developed mathematical models to quantify insulin secretion in living organisms. In the area of complex disease genetics, he also employs novel strategies to identify genetic alterations that make people more susceptible to developing Type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related traits and understanding the genes and gene expression and how they are affected by environmental exposures.

Watanabe has worked to improve student diversity at the Keck School of Medicine through his co-leadership of the NIH/NIDDK-funded Summer Program in Diabetes and Obesity Research (SPIDOR) and participation in the USC Bridging the Gaps summer program and the NIH/NHLBI-funded L.A.’s Biostatistical Education Summer Training program.

Watanabe has been a long-time docent at the Japanese American National Museum and serves on the JANM Board of Governors.

In a statement on Tuesday, Ann Burroughs, JANM president and CEO, said, “We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Richard Watanabe on this extraordinary honor. In a distinguished career marked by significant achievements, the acknowledgement of your peers is perhaps the ultimate validation. We are honored to have him serve as a JANM governor and as a dedicated volunteer and docent of long standing.”

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