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Portrait of Joshua Fu
Joshua Fu

When Joshua Fu was growing up in Taiwan, on summer visits to his grandparents’ farm he was struck by the difference between the beautiful rural area and his heavy industrial city. “I decided to devote my career to protecting the environment,” said Fu, the John D. Tickle Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Gladys Alexandre, born in the shadow of the French Alps, grew up and studied in Lyon. “I always loved biology,” she said. “I fell in love with research as an undergraduate.” She joined UT’s Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology in 2005 in part because the beauty of the hills and rivers reminded her of the region where she grew up. Now a professor and head of the department, Alexandre researches ways that beneficial soil bacteria can be used in agriculture to circumvent the need for chemical fertilizers and promote sustainable agriculture around the world.

Gladys Alexandre

This month the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced the election of Fu and Alexandre as 2020 AAAS Fellows, citing Fu “for distinguished contributions to the field of air quality and climate modeling and informing national and international management and policies involving these issues” and Alexandre “for distinguished contributions to the field of molecular microbiology, particularly for characterizing bacterial sensing and chemotaxis signaling in beneficial plant-microbe associations.” They are the 36th and 37th UT faculty members to be named AAAS Fellows.

“I did not expect it,” said Alexandre. “It’s a nice feather in your cap as a scientist, in recognition of your research and service to your discipline.”

AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific society, publishes the journal Science. The AAAS Fellowship, dating back to 1874, is a lifetime honor.

Fu is the inaugural professor of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a collaboration between UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and holds a joint appointment in the Computational Earth Sciences Group in ORNL’s Computational Sciences and Engineering Division.

He focused on water pollution for both his undergraduate environmental engineering degree at Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University and his master’s in civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. He then switched to air pollution for his PhD in civil engineering at North Carolina State University.

Before moving to Knoxville in 2000, Fu was a senior scientific applications analyst developing and operating the AirNow air-quality website for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Supercomputing Center. His current research focuses on climate-change impacts on energy infrastructure, air pollution, water availability, public health, and extreme events like heat waves, floods, and droughts. He serves as vice chair of the Scientific Steering Committee on Measurement-Model Fusion for Global Total Atmospheric Deposition at the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization.

Alexandre received her undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1. “I didn’t want to be an engineer, doctor, or veterinarian,” she said. “I always liked learning. It was stimulating, eye opening, and I loved the ability to work with people who are so different from me.”

After earning her PhD in microbial biology in 1998, she did postdoctoral work in California and taught at Georgia State University for three years before moving to Knoxville. “I recall UT was extremely collegial,” she said. “I always loved the working environment. UT is always underrated in the quality of research and the environment provided for you to perform your research. I’m forever learning, and I learn so much about different fields. One way I look at it is that I figured out how I could be a student forever. In my mind, I never felt I ever worked a day.”


Brooks Clark (865-310-1277,