Groundbreaking research paves way to AAAS Fellowship for Western scientist

Robyn Klein, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Neurovirology and Neuroimmunolo
Robyn Klein, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Neurovirology and Neuroimmunology, has been elected as a 2023 AAAS Fellow. (Schulich Medicine & Dentistry)
Dr. Robyn Klein has been elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science class of Fellows for her neuroscience research With a global reputation as an expert on the effects of viral infections in the brain - a field of study she essentially created - Dr. Robyn Klein has been elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) class of Fellows.

The 502 members of the 2023 class come from almost every field of science and are at the forefront of research into emerging technologies, environmental issues and innovative therapies.

"As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the AAAS Fellows, AAAS is proud to recognize the newly elected individuals. This year’s class embodies scientific excellence, fosters trust in science throughout the communities they serve, and leads the next generation of scientists while advancing scientific achievements," said Sudip S. Parikh, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals.

Klein came to Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry from Washington University’s School of Medicine as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Neurovirology and Neuroimmunology - the second such appointment at Western.

"To be elected as a Fellow by a panel of very high-caliber scientists is an honour," said Klein. "It’s gratifying to be accepted into such an elite group. For a long time, I was the only one working in this area, creating a field when there was very little understanding of the immune response in the brain and central nervous system."

As a graduate student, Klein began her work in neuroscience with an interest in brain research, an interest that grew while she was in the MD PhD program in New York City in the middle of the AIDS epidemic.

"In that setting I learned that many of the infections in patients who had AIDS were infections in the brain. That tells you, right there, that T cells are important in protecting the brain," she said. "And who was studying this? Nobody was."

How T cells work:

T cells contribute to the protection of the brain during infections by mounting an immune response tailored to combat the invading pathogens while minimizing damage to the delicate brain tissue.

Klein’s groundbreaking work in the field has included studying the effects of West Nile and Zika viruses as well as SARS-CoV-2 and the effects of long COVID on brain functions.

Now she looks forward to the next stage of her work using Western’s state-of-the-art facilities, such as the Imaging Pathogens for Knowledge Translation (ImPaKT) facility; and The Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping at Robarts Research Institute , as well as sophisticated touch-screen technology to discern cognition, like memory, decision-making and attention in animal models.

"There’s also such a great group of people here who are like-minded, interested in the same questions and who want to work together to accomplish our goals," said Klein. "It’s just been a breath of fresh air."

The American Association for the Advancement of Science

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