Hildebrand, Kennicutt Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Lori Stiles
June 22, 2001

Two scientists from the University of Arizona have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an international learned society composed of the world's leading scientists, scholars, artists, business people and public leaders.

John G. Hildebrand and Robert C.Kennicutt are among 208 distinguished new members selected for achievements in fields ranging from mathematics to medicine, from computer science to literary criticism, and from public affairs to the performing arts.

Hildebrand is Regents' Professor, director of the Division of Neurobiology of the Arizona Research Laboratories, and professor of neurobiology, biochemistry and molecular biophysics, entomology, and molecular and cellular biology at the UA.

"I have long admired this Academy because it honors people from all academic disciplines and public service and not only natural sciences," he said. He did not know he had been nominated for Academy membership this year, he added.

"It was a wonderful surprise to be elected. I was stunned at first -- and jubilant after the reality sunk in!"

The Academy said of Hildebrand: "Through multidisciplinary use of molecular, neurophysiological, anatomical and behavioral approaches, he has made signal contributions elucidating the neurobiology of olfaction in insects, illuminating the functional organization, physiology and development of the olfactory system, and characterizing mechanisms underlying detection and processing of behaviorally important odor molecules."

Hildebrand earned the A.B. degree magna cum laude in biology at Harvard College in 1964 and the Ph.D. degree in biochemistry at Rockefeller University in 1969. He joined the UA in 1985 to establish and direct the Division of Neurobiology. Before coming to Arizona, he was on the faculty at Columbia University (1980-85), Rockefeller University (1981-86) and Harvard Medical School (1970-80). He also served as a trustee (1981-89) and member of the executive committee (1982-88) of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, as a trustee of Rockefeller University (1970-73), and as associate in behavioral biology in the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology (1980-97).

Election to the Academy is "unquestionably at the top of the list of honors that have come my way in my career," Hildebrand said. He also is an elected member of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina - the oldest academy of sciences in the world (1998), an elected Foreign Member in the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (1999), holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Cagliari, Italy, (2000). He has been awarded the Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientists (1997), the International Flavors and Fragrances Award for Innovative Research in the Chemoreception Sciences (1997); and the R.H. Wright Award in Olfactory Research (1990).

Kennicutt, like Hildebrand, said he did not know that he had been nominated for the award until congratulations started pouring in from around the country. When asked how he ranks election to the Academy among honors he has received, he said, "The best. Period."

"What impressed me most were the names of the artists, economists, and business and political leaders who also were elected this year," he said. "Being in an organization with such a broad group of outstanding individuals is an honor beyond description. And knowing that my colleagues in astronomy thought highly enough of me to nominate and elect me is a reward in itself."

Kennicutt, professor of astronomy, came from the University of Minnesota to the UA in 1988. He earned the bachelor of science degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1973), and the master's and doctoral degrees in astronomy from the University of Washington (1976, 1978).

He is editor-in-chief of the major scientific astronomy publication, the Astrophysical Journal.

The Academy cited Kennicutt for his research in extragalactic observational astronomy. He has developed quantitative measures of star formation rates, demonstrated that galaxy interactions trigger star formation and documented systematics of chemical abundance properties of galaxies. He is member of the Hubble Space Telescope key project team to determine the Hubble constant for measuring extragalactic distances.

Last year Kennicutt was selected to head one of six science teams awarded observing time on the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) to be launched July 2002. Kennicutt's team was awarded 512 hours observing time to study 75 nearby galaxies, conducting comprehensive imaging to pierce the dust that hides star formation. The research will yield new insights into the physical processes connecting star formation to the interstellar medium of dust and gas that permeates the galaxies. His proposal, titled "SINGS: The SIRTF Nearby Galaxies Survey - Physics of the Star-Forming ISM and Galaxy Evolution," involves 14 co-investigators at 17 institutions.

Kennicutt this summer is at Groningen University, the Netherlands, where he is visiting as the Adriaan Blaauw Distinguished Professor.

The Academy has a membership of 3,700 American Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members. Other newly elected members include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, film-maker Woody Allen, photographer Richard Avedon, Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel; His Majesty Juan Carlos I, King of Spain; London actor Dame Diana Rigg, D.B.E., Tucson author Leslie Marmon Silko and composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

Founded during the American Revolution by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other leaders of the young nation, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences was chartered "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people."***University of Arizona news is online @ http://uanews.org****


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