AURORA, Colo. – He studies yeast because it is a good model for human cells, and now he’s being recognized alongside some very elite company. A department chairman at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Mark Johnston, PhD has been recognized along with some of the world's most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities and the arts. Johnston has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Johnston was elected in the section of cellular and developmental biology, microbiology and immunology. Nine others were elected in the same category among the 220 members in the Academy’s Class of 2012, which includes Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, philanthropist Melinda Gates, movie star Clint Eastwood and musician Paul McCartney.
“I’m honored to be recognized,” said Johnston. “The list of people in the Class of 2012, in my field and overall, is quite impressive. It means much to me that my colleagues thought enough of my contributions to nominate and elect me.”
One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the Academy is also a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, the humanities and culture, and education.
“Election to the Academy is both an honor for extraordinary accomplishment and a call to serve,” said Academy President Leslie C. Berlowitz. “We look forward to drawing on the knowledge and expertise of these distinguished men and women to advance solutions to the pressing policy challenges of the day.”
Members of the 2012 class include winners of the National Medal of Science, the Lasker Award, the Pulitzer and the Shaw prizes, the Fields Medal; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships; the Kennedy Center Honors; Grammy, Emmy, Academy, and Tony awards; the Avery Fisher Prize, and election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Scientists among the newly elected Fellows include: James Fraser Stoddart, a chemist whose work helped establish the field of molecular nanotechnology; Angela M. Belcher, who uses directed evolution to create new materials and devices with applications in electronics, energy, and medicine; geological scientist Katharine V. Cashman, who helped explain why volcanoes erupt the way they do; Gregory B. Olson, one of the founders of computational materials design; astronomer Debra A. Fischer, who helped discover more than 200 planetary systems; Robert P. Colwell, chief architect of Intel’s Pentium microprocessors; Tyler Jacks, who exploits gene-targeting technology in mice to understand cancer in humans; oncologist Brian Druker, whose research dramatically improved survival rates for leukemia patients; mathematician Ngô Bao Châu, winner of the Fields Medal; synthetic biology pioneer Jef Boeke; psychologist Robert Seyfarth, whose field research with monkeys shed light on the evolutionary origins of language; and Griffin P. Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, whose research contributed to the first effective therapy for sickle cell anemia.
Social scientists include: economist Robert A. Moffitt, an authority on the incentives and disincentives inherent in the U.S. welfare system; Paul Mendes-Flohr, a leading scholar of modern Jewish thought and history; behavioral scientist Edward F. Diener, who pioneered methods of measuring well-being; legal scholar Shari S. Diamond, whose empirical research has influenced sentencing policy and jury selection in U.S. courts; public finance economist Amy Finkelstein, whose work has shown how the structure of government programs affects health care choices and outcomes; political scientist James Druckman, who developed influential theories of how citizens form political opinions; and George F. Bass, a pioneer in underwater archaeology.
In the humanities and the arts, new members include: Civil War scholar David. W. Blight; Vicki L. Ruiz, whose research helped establish the field of Chicano/Latino history; Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon; poet Gerald Stern; sculptor Kiki Smith; American film icons Clint Eastwood and Mel Brooks; violinist Midori Goto; pianist, conductor, and composer Andre Previn; and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.
Among those elected to the Academy in public affairs and journalism are: sustainability expert Kamaljit Singh Bawa; former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, Jr.; veteran diplomat R. Nicholas Burns; U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; television journalist Judy Woodruff; and Boston Globe editor Martin Baron.
Business leaders in the 2012 class include: Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos; Merck and Company Chairman, President and CEO Kenneth Frazier; Walt Disney President and CEO Robert A. Iger; civic and business leader Penny S. Pritzker; Loews Corporation President and CEO James S. Tisch; and philanthropist and retired Citigroup Chairman Sanford I. Weill.
The new class also includes the leaders of educational, cultural, and philanthropic organizations including: Jared L. Cohon (Carnegie Mellon University); Melinda F. Gates (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation); Steven S. Koblik (Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens); Reynold Levy (Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts); Carolyn A. Martin (Amherst College); and Michael A. McRobbie (Indiana University).
The Academy elected 17 Foreign Honorary Members from Argentina, Canada, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. They include: Helmut Schwarz, President of Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; Dutch stem cell researcher Johannes C. Clevers; French social anthropologist Philippe Descola; British playwright and director David Hare; South African artist William Kentridge; British recording artist Paul McCartney; Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho; British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon; Argentinian commentator and politician Rodolfo Hector Terragno; and Ismail Serageldin, director of Egypt’s Bibliotheca Alexendrina.
The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 6, at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.
Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.