May 4, 2005

Academy of Arts and Sciences Inducts Three Profs

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The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) selected three Cornell professors as some of its newest members last month in recognition of their work in such fields as astronomy, mathematics and literature. AAAS is an international learned society whose members are some of the world’s leading scientists, scholars, artists, business people, and public leaders. AAAS honored over 200 individuals this year; new fellows are elected by its current 4,000 members.

Prof. Steven Squyres Ph.D. ’78, astronomy, believes he was inducted for his ongoing work as the principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission. Every day, Squyres, in collaboration with several other researchers around the world, plots out the routes of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

The primary purpose of the mission is to find evidence of water on the planet Mars, as well as build a more elaborate idea of the landscape of the planet. Squyres has also done research related to Venus and the moons of the outer planets of the solar system.

“I should look at [my AAAS membership] as a recognition by my peers of the work that I’ve done,” Squyres said.

Prof. Gregory Lawler, mathematics, was recognized for his work in probability and the processes arising from statistical physics.

“My specialty is … random walk and Brownian motion,” Lawler said. “One such process is the ‘self-avoiding walk,’ a walker who moves randomly in a way that avoids returning to places that the walker has been. This walk models polymer chains.”

He has also collaborated with individuals at the University of Paris and at Microsoft to research and prove a number of conjectures originally thought up by Benoit Mandelbrot that are related to fractals and Brownian motion.

Prof. Alison Lurie, F. J. Whiton Professor of American Literature Emerita, was elected to the AAAS for her work in literature. A Pulitzer Prize winner, Lurie has published nine novels, a book of short stories, a non-fiction study of fashion and two collections of essays on children’s literature.

“Membership signifies that people on some committee of the AAAS have decided that I am part of ‘American Literature,’ along with 120 other writers,” Lurie said in a statement. She is currently working on a piece about architecture and art museums. Truth and Consequences, her tenth book, will be arriving in October.

This year’s AAAS newest fellows include Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, journalist Tom Brokaw, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Time, Inc. CEO Ann Moore, and Washington Post Company CEO Donald Graham, among many others.