Using lasers to track down cancerous cells and to develop high-capacity storage units recently earned University of Central Florida professor Kevin Belfield national honors.

Belfield, a chemistry and optics professor, was named a national AAAS Fellow.

The honor is given to individuals by their peers for efforts to advance science or its application.

Belfield was selected for his contributions to the field of photonic materials and processes, particularly two-photon based bioimaging and optical data storage. He was also recognized for “exceptional administration as department chair” while continuing to produce innovative research.

Belfield is working on a host of non-invasive techniques, which use light (lasers) to image cancerous cells within deep tissue. The research shows promise and one day the imaging technique might complement or replace traditional biopsies. The same technique may also lend itself to delivering cancer-fighting drugs that perhaps could someday be used to treat breast, lung, ovarian, brain, kidney, colon and endometrial cancers without surgery.

Another application of Belfield’s research into lasers led to the development of a 3-D digital storage system that stores 1 terabyte (1,024 gigabytes) of data on multiple layers of a single DVD.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the premier professional society in the U.S,” Belfield said. “Knowing that highly respected, high-caliber scientists expressed such high regard for my research and administrative accomplishments is truly humbling and reflects well on the university and everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”

This year’s AAAS Fellows will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on Nov. 29. The AAAS publishes the journal.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Members can be considered for the rank of fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the association’s 24 sections, or by any three fellows who are AAAS members (so long as at least two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Fellows must have been continuous members of AAAS for four years by the end of the calendar year in which they are elected.

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.

A total of 338 fellows (11 from Florida) were named this year.