Renu Malhotra, a professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as part of a new class of accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and civic, business and philanthropic leaders.
Malhotra, who joined the UA faculty in 2000, serves as chair of the Theoretical Astrophysics Program in the UA's Department of Planetary Sciences. The interdisciplinary program was established in 1985 to foster scientific and academic links among the physics, astronomy and planetary sciences departments, as well as the Applied Mathematics Program and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.
Malhotra's work in planetary dynamics has spanned a wide variety of topics, including extrasolar planets and debris disks around stars, the formation and evolution of the Kuiper belt and the asteroid belt, the orbital resonances among the moons of the giant planets, and the meteoritic bombardment history of the planets. She has revolutionized the understanding of the history of the solar system by using the orbital resonance between Pluto and Neptune to infer large-scale orbital migration of the giant planets and to predict the existence of the "Plutinos" and other small planets in resonance with Neptune. She has received honors and awards from the UA, American Astronomical Society, the International Astronomical Union, and the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi.
The academy's 2015 class of nearly 200 members also includes former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Pulitzer Prize winner Holland Cotter, singer-songwriter Judy Collins, Nike co-founder Philip Knight, Nobel Prize winner Brian Kobilka, Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and novelist Tom Wolfe.
One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the academy also is a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts and education.
"We are honored to elect a new class of extraordinary women and men to join our distinguished membership," said Don Randel, chair of the academy’s board of directors. "Each new member is a leader in his or her field and has made a distinct contribution to the nation and the world."
In addition to Malhotra, mathematicians and scientists in the new class include: theoretical computer scientist Sanjeev Arora, who developed the PCP Theorem; leading probabilist Gerard Ben Arous; epidemiologist James W. Curran, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health; Michael Elowitz, whose work helped to initiate synthetic biology; Howard Eichenbaum, director of the Center for Memory and Brain; George Georgiou, inventor of protein drugs and protein production technologies; Linda Hsieh-Wilson, a pioneer in the new field of chemical glycobiology; Victoria Kaspi, a leader in high-energy astrophysics; neurobiologist Margaret Livingstone; virologist Paul A. Offit; nanoscale scientist Paul L. McEuen; Philip Needleman, who discovered and developed Celebrex; Rebecca Richards-Kortum, whose works focuses on developing low-cost, high-performance imaging technologies for low resource settings; Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, a leader in the study of regeneration; evolutionary biologist Joan B. Silk; and Gerhard Wagner, who performed the first comprehensive study of hydrogen exchange on a protein.
The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 10 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The complete list of new members is at https://www.amacad.org/content/members/members.aspx.
Since its founding in 1780, the academy has elected leading "thinkers and doers" from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Margaret Mead and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.
UA President Ann Weaver Hart is a member of an advisory group for the academy's Lincoln Project, which is focused on the development of new federal, corporate and philanthropic sources of support to sustain public higher education. The project is named for President Abraham Lincoln to commemorate his role in signing the Morrill Act of 1862, which paved the way for land-grant universities such as the UA.
Editor's note: Malhotra was elected to the National Academy of Sciences on April 28 (see story).