University of Maryland Professor Lisa Taneyhill Named Fellow of the American Association for Anatomy

The recognition highlights Taneyhill’s outstanding contributions to anatomical sciences.

March 13, 2023 Kimbra Cutlip

University of Maryland professor in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, Lisa Taneyhill, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for Anatomy, an international membership organization of biomedical researchers and educators specializing in the structural foundation of health and disease.

The designation of Fellow honors distinguished association members who have demonstrated excellence in science and in their overall contributions to the anatomical sciences.

“This society is my professional home, so receiving this recognition is both gratifying and humbling,” Taneyhill said. “AAA is a diverse and inclusive scientific society filled with members who have done and are doing outstanding work. Achieving the rank of Fellow is really a testament to what all of my trainees have helped me accomplish over the years.”

A member of AAA since 2011, Taneyhill has served on the Program Committee, which is responsible for establishing the content of the annual meetings, and is currently serving on the Board of Directors. Taneyhill also chaired a task force responsible for making recommendations surrounding the format, objectives, and evaluation of AAA regional meetings.

A developmental biologist, Taneyhill uses the chicken and mouse embryo to explore the molecular mechanisms that enable certain embryonic cells to develop into the tissues of the face, head, and neck. Specifically, she is working to uncover how two different cell types migrate and adhere to each other to form the cranial ganglia – a cluster of nerve cells responsible for perceiving sensory information like taste, touch and smell.

Understanding these molecular processes in normal development can help researchers learn why and how things go wrong, resulting in diseases like cancer, craniofacial abnormalities such  as cleft palate, and cranial nerve disorders. Taneyhill said she is excited for the next step in her work, which includes applying that basic understanding she and others have been building to studies that can inform potential preventative treatments and therapeutics for these conditions.

The importance of Taneyhill’s work is reflected in the support she has received from external funding agencies, which has totaled $7.8M since beginning her research in 1997. (She has received $7.4M since arriving at UMD in late 2007.)

As an expert in her field, Taneyhill was elected by her peers to serve as the Vice-Chair (2023) and Chair (2025) of the Gordon Research Conference on Neural Crest and Cranial Placodes, the leading scientific conference for her field of study.

Her leadership in the broader scientific community includes serving as an invited member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Gene Drive Research in Non-Human Organisms. The 15-member panel comprised international leaders in their respective fields who assessed the state of emerging developments in genetic research and produced a written report on responsible conduct of research. Taneyhill presented committee findings in briefings for the National Institutes of Health, Congress, the White House and the public.

An important aspect of her contribution to anatomical sciences is her commitment to diversifying the field. Taneyhill has been an active supporter of women in sciences, and currently represents the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the UMD ADVANCE program, which supports the recruitment, retention, advancement, and professional growth of a diverse faculty. Her lab has often been staffed and run entirely by women scientists.

Taneyhill earned her B.A. in chemistry and biochemistry from McDaniel College, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology before coming to UMD as an assistant professor in 2007.