A smiling woman sits in the lower right, while seven younger people stand near her, with lush green trees in the background.
Maeli Melotto, front row, right, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. However, she attributes her distinguished career to the hard-working, committed students who work in the Melotto Lab. The current students, from left, are Joseph Student, Madeleine Macconnell, Tracy Weitz, Maria Miccono, Gabrielle Rossidivito, Zach Jaramillo, Jirachaya Yeemin and Ho-Wen Yang. (Courtesy Maeli Melotto/UC Davis)

Melotto named AAAS fellow for work in plant defenses against bacteria

Maeli Melotto, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences specializing in plant immunity, has been recognized as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals.

Melotto is among eight faculty at UC Davis and 508 scientists, engineers and innovators nationwide elected 2022 fellows for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements throughout their careers.

“I am humbled by this recognition,” Melotto said. “It is an incredible honor to join the list of fellows, many of whom I have admired throughout my career for their outstanding contributions to the field of plant biology.” 

Melotto studies strategy in a kind of war that goes on at the molecular level: how plants defend themselves against disease and how bacteria overcome those defenses to infect the leaves we want to eat. Recently, her work has explored the potentially fatal bacterium E. coli’s attack on lettuce. She also has studied resistance and susceptibility in beans, tomatoes, sugarcane and Arabidopsis, the cress used as a model for plant research.

Her most recent specialty is monitoring bacteria that make people sick, such as Salmonella, to see how they sneak through tiny pores – called stomata – in the leaves and set up camp in the microscopic spaces inside the leaves. Her aim: solve problems relevant to California farmers. Melotto has spoken at gatherings around the world, and her research has been cited 9,220 times.

“Through my research and mentoring of future scientists, I hope to continue making meaningful contributions toward protecting our crops from pathogens,” Melotto said.

History of AAAS fellows

Election as an AAAS fellow is a lifetime honor dating back to 1874.

“AAAS is excited to announce the newest class of fellows from across the scientific enterprise in a tradition dating back nearly 150 years and to honor their broad range of achievements,” said Sudip Parikh, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher.

Related links

Read more about Melotto's research on lettuce and E. coli.

Because Melotto works with dangerous human pathogens, she and students have worked hard to meet the highest safety standards in their lab. Read about the university's recognition of their work.

Media Resources

  • Trina Kleist, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, tkleist@ucdavis.du, (530) 754-6148 or (530) 601-6846

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Plant Breeding