Three University of Arizona professors have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for their scientific research.

Regents’ Professor Malcolm Hughes of the UA’s Laboratory for Tree-Ring Research was honored for his decades of work advancing the science of dendrochronology and its contributions to understanding climate change.

Hughes works with tree-rings and other proxy measures of temperature and precipitation to compile climate histories dating back centuries.

His work and that of colleagues at the Tree-Ring Lab have propelled UA researchers into the forefront of climate change research, with all its attendant recognition and controversy.

“I used to be in the happy position of doing something nobody much cared about,” Hughes said, joking.

He called the honor “a very pleasant surprise” and an honor for himself and “the team out of which the work came, both here and around the world.”

Entomologist Diana Wheeler was honored for her work in the genetic and environmental causes of caste development in social insects, specifically ants and honeybees.

Wheeler, a professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said that when she began her research “people thought everything was in the genes.”

She found that caste differentiation was much more a product of environment. Soldier ants grow larger when they are in short supply in ant colonies, and genetically identical bees can become workers or queens, depending on their diets.

Genes still play a role, she said, but she finds it comforting to find that in insects, as in animals, your genetic makeup does not fully determine your destiny.

Katrina Marie Miranda, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was honored for her work on oxides of nitrogen, which have promising roles in development of therapies for both heart disease and cancer.

Miranda has worked for more than a decade on

nitroxyl, or HNO, which is known to have a beneficial effect in treatment of heart failure.

Oxides of nitrogen also play a role in the immune system and have potential roles in cancer treatment, she said.

The current thinking is that small amounts lead to cancer production, and larger amounts may retard it.

She is studying the chemical and biochemical processes of oxides of nitrogen and collaborating with clinicians and animal researchers on developing new therapies for heart disease and cancer.

Contact reporter Tom Beal at or 573-4158.