Four Cornell professors were named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this year. Prof. Donald Campbell Ph.D. ’71, astronomy; Prof. David Grusky, sociology; David Hammer Ph.D. ’69, the J. Carleton Ward Professor of Nuclear Energy Engineering; and Prof. Ray Wu, molecular biology and genetics were among 348 scientists to receive the award from this prestigious organization.
The fellows were acknowledged for their work toward fulfilling the mission of the AAAS, which is, according to the association’s website, “to advance science and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.”
Campbell has been teaching astronomy at Cornell since 1988. He is also the associate director of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, which helps manage the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico for the National Science Foundation. Campbell was director of the observatory from 1981 to 1987.
Explaining his research, Campbell said he is “interested in the solid bodies of the solar system.” His work is currently focused on studying the surfaces of asteroids, comets, the moon, Venus and Titan, which is a satellite of Saturn. Campbell uses technology to search for liquid at the poles of the moon, which are hard to see because of their position in the shadows of the sun.
Campbell said the award is “a nice recognition of past work — and contributions over many years.” Originally from Australia, Campbell said his field is so exciting in part because “it is probably one of the most international activities” in the sciences.
Grusky represents Cornell’s sociology department in the AAAS. “Usually seen as one of the lesser of the social sciences,” Grusky said, sociology at Cornell has in recent years become “one of the premier departments in the country.”
Grusky, who has been teaching at Cornell for five years, is also the director of the University’s Center for the Study of Inequality. He researches occupational sex and race segregation. As a comparative sociologist, he is studying patterns across countries in this field.
Grusky’s other main project right now is an evaluation of “the argument about the decline of social class,” he said, a claim with which he does not agree.
“What makes this award distinctive for the social scientist is that the association has been dominated by the natural sciences,” Grusky said.
Hammer, who has been a member of the Cornell faculty since 1977, studies plasma physics and high-energy-density matter. By passing high currents through metal wires, he creates pulse-driven X-rays and other diagnostic instruments.
“We are only just beginning to understand extremely high-energy-density plasma,” Hammer said.
The technologies discovered and used by Hammer throughout his career, especially when working at the Naval Research Laboratory, have become instrumental in nuclear weapon simulation tests. Inertial confinement fusion is used to make micro-hydrogen bombs, which allow the country to maintain a nuclear weapons stockpile without actually testing the weapons, Hammer explained. He hopes to some day use this process to create an electric power source.
“I consider this a really substantial honor and recognition,” Hammer said about the award. The professor is also a member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers and the chair of the Division of Plasma Physics of the American Physical Society. For Hammer, becoming an AAAS fellow means “joining a collection of people who you respect.”
Wu, a Cornell professor since 1966, has helped develop genetically modified rice plants that allow farmers to grow better crops. Such agronomic changes in the DNA sequences of the plants help repel insects and retain water, among other things. He was also involved in the creation of a faster method for DNA sequencing and pinpointing specific genetic mutations in the polymerase chain reaction.
Wu is originally from Beijing and has been named an honorary research scientist at nearly a dozen institutes in China. Before coming to Cornell, Wu conducted research at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the MRCH Laboratory in England.
According to the AAAS website, “fellows are recognized for meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications.” All four members of the Cornell faculty who were chosen this year will receive a certificate and rosette pin during the AAAS annual meeting on Feb. 14 in Seattle, Wash.
Archived article by Melissa Korn