Three Caltech faculty members have been elected as the newest members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) this year. Membership in the academy is considered one of the highest honors a scientist can receive.
The Caltech faculty members recognized this year are Alexei Kitaev, Ronald and Maxine Linde Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics; Ellen Rothenberg, Distinguished Professor of Biology; and Anneila Sargent (MS '67, PhD '77), Ira S. Bowen Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus. Alumnus John Maunsell (PhD '82) and former faculty member Ralph Nuzzo were also elected this year.
Alexei Kitaev studies quantum computation and related areas of theoretical physics. He was recognized for helping to found the field of topological quantum computing, which involves theoretical computing devices that use a type of particle called an anyon to do computations. In 2012, Kitaev received the $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize for his work developing algorithms and theories to enable quantum computing. A member of Caltech's Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, he was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2008. Kitaev was named a Simons Investigator in 2015, and was a recipient of the 2015 Dirac Medal and Prize from the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics and the American Physics Society's 2017 Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize.
Ellen Rothenberg investigates the regulatory mechanisms that control blood stem cell differentiation and the development of T lymphocytes—white blood cells that play an important role in immunity. In 2018, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; in 2017, she was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2019, Rothenberg was selected as a member of the inaugural class of Distinguished Fellows of the American Association of Immunologists. Rothenberg joined the Caltech faculty in 1982 and has received numerous honors, including the 2016 Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching.
Anneila Sargent studies how stars are born and evolve and the disks of gas and dust from which they form, in addition to developing instrumentation and facilities to see the universe in detail. Sargent first came to Caltech as a graduate student in 1966, joining the faculty in 1998. In 2019, she was a recipient of the Caltech Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award; she is also a Distinguished Alumna of her alma mater, the University of Edinburgh. Sargent has served on the National Science Board since the Obama administration. She has also been president of the American Astronomical Society, chair of NASA's Space Science Advisory Committee, and chair of the National Research Council's Board of Physics and Astronomy. Sargent is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The National Academy of Sciences was established by a congressional charter signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Along with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine, it provides science, engineering, and health-policy advice to the federal government. This year, the academy elected 120 members—59 of whom are women, the most elected in a single year—and 30 international members in recognition of their achievements in research.
"The historic number of women elected this year reflects the critical contributions that they are making in many fields of science, as well as a concerted effort by our Academy to recognize those contributions and the essential value of increasing diversity in our ranks," said National Academy of Sciences president Marcia McNutt in the institute's press release. "I am pleased to welcome all of our new members, and I look forward to engaging with them in the work of the National Academies."
Written by Lori Dajose