The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals, has elected Virginia Tech’s X.J. Meng to the newest class of AAAS Fellows, among the most distinct honors within the scientific community.

Meng, University Distinguished Professor at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and professor of internal medicine at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, is being honored for his paradigm-shifting discoveries of animal hepatitis E viruses leading to the recognition of human hepatitis E as a zoonotic disease that is transmitted from animals to human and between different animals species.  

“We are thrilled with  X.J. Meng’s well-deserved recognition as a lifetime AAAS fellow for his research on emerging and reemerging viral diseases,” said Virginia Tech Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation Dan Sui. “He is a world-renowned researcher and widely considered one of the leading scientists in hepatitis E research." 

The 2021 class of AAAS Fellows includes 564 scientists, engineers, and innovators spanning 24 scientific disciplines who are being recognized for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements. Virginia Tech’s  Leo Piilonen, professor of physics in the College of Science, was also honored as a AAAS fellow for the class of 2021.

“AAAS is proud to bestow the honor of AAAS Fellow to some of today’s brightest minds who are integral to forging our path into the future,” said Sudip Parikh, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “We celebrate these distinguished individuals for their invaluable contributions to the scientific enterprise.”

Meng’s world-renowned work focuses on emerging and reemerging viral diseases that impact veterinary and human public health. Meng is widely considered one of the world’s leading scientists in hepatitis E virus, porcine circovirus type 2, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. 

“It is a great honor to be elected a fellow of AAAS. I have been fortunate to have a large number of talented graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff as well as many wonderful collaborators who have significantly contributed to the success of my research program,” said Meng, interim executive director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute at Virginia Tech.

Since joining Virginia Tech, Meng has been awarded more than 55 research grants as the principal investigator totaling more than $21 million. Additionally, Meng also served as co-principal investigator or co-investigator on 65 other funded grants totaling more than $33 million.

“X.J. Meng’s selection as an AAAS fellow is a well-deserved recognition of his scientific leadership, ground-breaking innovation, and productive, systematic investigations of emerging and re-emerging diseases.  His continued contributions to this area of scientific knowledge will advance health and well-being in the months and years to come,” said M. Daniel Givens, dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Meng has published more than 349 peer-reviewed scientific papers, reviews, and book chapters. According to Essential Science Indicators, Meng was ranked in the top 1 percent of highly cited scientists from 1997 to 2007 in the field of microbiology. Meng’s publications have been cited for more than 32,236 times with a h-index of 93. A notable innovator, Meng is an inventor on 25 awarded and 18 pending U.S. patents on various vaccines against important virus diseases. 

Meng, founding director of the Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens, one of the four research centers affiliated with the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, and researchers within the center from seven Virginia Tech colleges are working to advance transformative science and develop effective countermeasures against emerging infectious diseases, positioning Virginia Tech as an international research leader in this field. 

The tradition of honoring AAAS Fellows stretches back to 1874. AAAS Fellows are a distinguished cadre of scientists, engineers, and innovators who have been recognized for their achievements across disciplines ranging from research, teaching, and technology, to administration in academia, industry, and government, to excellence in communicating and interpreting science to the public. 

Members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the association’s 24 sections representing each scientific discipline, by three Fellows who are current AAAS Members or by the CEO of AAAS. The AAAS Fellow honor comes with an expectation that recipients maintain the highest standards of professional ethics and scientific integrity.

Each steering group reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list. The Council is the policymaking body of the association, chaired by the AAAS president, and consisting of members of the board of directors, the retiring section chairs, delegates from each electorate and each regional division, and two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science.

The new Fellows will receive an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin to commemorate their election (representing science and engineering, respectively) and will be celebrated later this year during an in-person gathering when it is feasible from a public health and safety perspective. The new class will also be featured in the AAAS News & Notes section of Science in January 2022.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, as well as Science Translational Medicine; Science Signaling; a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances; Science Immunology; and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. The nonprofit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For additional information about AAAS, visit

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