The University’s honorees, who hail from a broad spectrum of disciplines, will be formally inducted next fall into the AAAS, which “conduct[s] a varied program of projects and studies responsive to the needs and problems of society,” according to the group’s website.
In the sciences, the inductees include physics professor Robert Austin, mathematics professor Sun-Yung Alice Chang, architecture professor Elizabeth Diller, chemical engineering professor and acting department chair Pablo Debenedetti, and Emily Carter and Marlan Scully of the mechanical and aerospace engineering department.
“It’s always nice to be recognized by your colleagues for the work you’ve done over the years,” Austin said.
Faculty members in the social sciences include politics professor Charles Beitz GS ’78, English professor emeritus John Fleming GS ’63, history professor Daniel Rodgers, religion professor Jeffrey Stout GS ’76 and sociology professor and department chair Robert Wuthnow.
“It was a surprise for me,” Rodgers said. Many of the other honorees also noted their surprise, though some of them knew they were being considered.
To be elected to the AAAS, individuals must be nominated by current members. They are then evaluated on the contributions they have made both to their field and society during their career.
“I had never thought much about [it],” said Wuthnow, who is also the director of the Center for the Study of Religion.
Several new members expressed admiration for their colleagues in the AAAS.
“I’m very delighted to be a member of such a distinguished group and to be joining it with other Princetonians of such distinction,” Fleming said.
Stout likewise noted the exemplary list of past members.
“Just about anybody can find some of their heroes among the dead members,” he said in an e-mail. “In my case, they include [Ralph Waldo] Emerson and Martin Luther King Jr.”
Chang similarly said, “I went to the website and checked out the names of the [AAAS members] ... They are all leaders in their fields and I respect them in many regards.”
Several of the new members also emphasized the singularity of membership in the AAAS.
“It’s an academy that includes very broad membership,” Debenedetti said, explaining that the nature of the AAAS’ projects and studies is such that they are significant to society as a whole.
Even those in technical fields who are already members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), widely considered one of the preeminent scientific honors, called election to the AAAS a special distinction.
Carter, who was recently elected a member of the NAS and will become a full member next April, explained that in the AAAS, “your scholarly work is judged as having an impact that can be appreciated by a wider community.”
She also noted that the AAAS, founded in 1780, is much older than the NAS, which was founded in 1863. “It’s very special because it’s one of the oldest academies that the nation has,” Carter said.
Scully, who is also a member of NAS, said that the election to the AAAS is “a great opportunity ... to share insights with leaders in these other fields that we otherwise would not have a chance to interact with.”
He called the members of the AAAS “an excellent group of people” and expressed enthusiasm about the exchange of ideas that will take place among members in similar and different fields.