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Five CU Professors Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Five Columbia professors have been elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS). This year, the academy announced 178 new fellows and 24 new foreign honorary members from across many disciplines, including the arts, sciences, business and public affairs.

"I am honored to welcome these outstanding and influential individuals to the nation's oldest and most illustrious learned society," AAAS President Patricia Meyer Spacks said. "These new members have made extraordinary contributions to their fields and disciplines through their commitment to the advancement of scholarly and creative work in every field and profession."

New member Marian B. Carlson, Columbia professor of genetics and development and of microbiology in the College of Physicians & Surgeons, has focused her research on gene expression in yeast. She said that the human version of a yeast protein studied in her lab is a potential therapeutic target for diabetes and obesity. Carlson is a former president of the Genetics Society of America and serves on the March of Dimes Scientific Advisory Council.

Also, two Columbia professors of law were elected: Thomas W. Merrill and George P. Fletcher.

Merrill, the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law, came to Columbia last year from Northwestern University , where he had taught law since 1981. His teaching and research interests currently lie in areas of administrative law, property and environmental law. He formerly served as deputy solicitor general from 1987 to 1990 in the Department of Justice, where he represented the federal government before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Fletcher, the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence, focuses on international criminal law, the jurisprudence of war and biblical jurisprudence. He is also a former professional television moderator and commentator on legal affairs and, in the 1990s, founded a journal of philosophy and Judaism called S'vara. Fletcher is the author of nine books, including Rethinking Criminal Law, which received an Order of the Coif Award from the American Association of Law Schools; Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined AmericanDemocracy, designated by the American Association of Publishers as the best book on law published in 2001; and, with Steve Sheppard, American Law in a Global Context: The Basics, which will be published in the fall.

Alfred H. Mueller, the Enrico Fermi Professor from Columbia 's Department of Physics, was also elected. Mueller is playing a major role in the study of high-energy quantum chromodynamics (QCD). He has developed concepts and techniques in QCD that permitted precise quantitative predictions and experimental tests, thereby helping to establish QCD as the theory of the strong interactions. Mueller is also a recipient of the Sakurai Prize from the American Physical Society.

Gustavo Pérez-Firmat,the David Feinson Professor of Humanities from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, was also honored. Pérez-Firmat is the author of numerous works of poetry, fiction and literary and cultural criticism, including Tongue Ties: Logo-Eroticism in Anglo-Hispanic Literature and a soon-to-be published collection of poems, Scar Tissue: A Journal of Recovery and Reconnection. In 1997, Newsweek selected Pérez-Firmat as one of the "100 people to watch as America prepares to pass through the gate to the next millennium." Among many awards, he was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship.

This year's academy induction ceremony will take place in October in Cambridge , Mass. Founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and other contemporaries, the academy was created "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people." The new initiates will join the ranks of some of the brightest minds in American history, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Albert Einstein. Current membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences totals more than 4,500, including more than 150 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners.

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Published: May 13, 2004
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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