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Elina Zúñiga Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology

March 22, 2021

By Mario Aguilera

Elina Zuniga

Elina Zúñiga, a professor of molecular biology in UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences, has been honored by her peers by being elected a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

The American Academy of Microbiology is the honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the world’s oldest and largest life-science organization.

A member of the UC San Diego faculty since 2007, Zúñiga leads investigations of cellular and molecular aspects of immune responses during viral infections to determine basic principles of antiviral immunity, immune-evasion, persistence and pathogenesis. She was interviewed by Science and Scientific American last fall to offer insights on interferon response in relation to COVID-19 infection.

Zúñiga is one of 65 new fellows elected to the academy’s 2021 class. Academy fellows are annually elected through a highly selective, peer-review process based on records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. The academy received 150 nominations this year. 

In all, there are more than 2,500 fellows in the academy representing all subspecialties of the microbial sciences and involved in basic and applied research, teaching, public health, industry and government service. Fellows hail from all around the globe. The class of 2021 is a diverse class and represents fellows from 11 different countries, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Ireland, Sweden, Slovenia, Mexico, and Singapore, the U.K. and U.S.

Zúñiga received her PhD in biochemistry from the National University of Cordoba, Argentina. She conducted postdoctoral research at The Scripps Research Institute where she held two post-doctoral fellowships from the Antorchas Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts, respectively. She has received a Hellman Foundation Scholar Award, The Vilcek Finalist Prize for Creative Promise, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar Award and the American Cancer Society Scholar Award (a lifetime honor).

Zuniga is an advocate of equity and diversity. In 2018 she delivered the Vanguard Lecture, featured as part of a series highlighting underrepresented scientists, at the American Association of Immunologists meeting in Austin, Texas. More recently, she co-founded “Global Immunotalks,” which is a virtual seminar series aimed at providing world-wide access to scientific advances in immunology in an egalitarian, inclusive and environmentally friendly manner.

The American Society for Microbiology, composed of 30,000 scientists and health practitioners, promotes and advances microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications and educational opportunities. The organization enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources and provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.