The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) has recognized Texas A&M University scholar Karen L. Wooley, naming her a 2015 Fellow. The Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and W.T. Doherty-Welch Chair in Chemistry holder is among the leading chemists in the world and is now one of the 197 members of the prestigious honorary society, one of the oldest in the United States.
The AAAS has named 181 new fellows and 16 new foreign honorary members to join the academy, including Dr. Wooley, who will be officially inducted at a ceremony at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., on October 10th. The AAAS fellows include top scientists, artists and leaders in the fields of humanities, business, public affairs and the non-profitable organizations, some of them Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners or Grammy, Emmy, Oscar and Tony awardees, as well as MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellows.
“My department and my colleagues were extremely fortunate to recognize Karen’s superb intellect and her already enormous impact on soft-materials science at a stage in her career when she was open to an offer to enhance her laboratories and operation by a move to Texas A&M University,” said in a press release Marcetta Y. Darensbourg, a 2011 Academy Fellow and Wooley’s nominator for the award.
“What we did not realize was the full extent to which Karen is a dynamo – a force of nature. She is an outstanding colleague, generous with her leadership abilities and with her intellect. She is an equally outstanding teacher-professor, giving her all to the students in her polymer chemistry course that is oversubscribed each semester it is offered. She continues to build collaborations in medicine and engineering that develop applications in drug delivery and microelectronics — two examples among many in her vast research portfolio,” he added.
The chemist leads a research group comprised of 30 people, currently working in seven different areas and holding a budget of over $1.5 million annually. Dr. Wooley is focused on the pioneer role of organic polymer-based chemistry to develop new matter at a nanoscale level. Her investigations have been supported by the National Science Foundation for 20 years.
The researcher and professor has served as the director of a $33 million Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology (PEN) over the last 10 years, a program financed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The award will be invested throughout 2015 to develop research on nanoparticles that may change medical practices regarding detection, diagnosis and treatment of lung and cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. Wooley is a member of the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry since 2009 and holds appointments at both the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. “We are thrilled to see Karen get this well-deserved honor,” expressed the dean of the College of Science, H. Joseph Newton. “Not only is she a great researcher, but she is an outstanding mentor and great citizen of the department, college and university.”
The chemist has already been awarded with the Centenary Prize of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2014, and has become the first woman granted the American Chemical Society Award in Polymer Chemistry for her outstanding efforts and accomplishments in addressing the need for advanced polymer systems and materials. She is also an associate editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society and serves in many advisory positions, such as chair of the National Institutes of Health NANO study section.
“This is a most deserved accolade for our colleague, Karen Wooley, who has been a force in our department since she joined us in 2009,” said the head of the Department of Chemistry, François P. Gabbaï, who serves as professor and holds the Arthur E. Martell Endowed Chair. “In addition to excelling in research, Karen is also a superb teacher and departmental citizen. I feel very fortunate to have her as a colleague and thank her for the overwhelmingly positive impact she has made at Texas A&M.”
The researcher will join other Texas A&M University academics already honored by the AAAS, including Darensbourg, the distinguished professor emeritus of nautical archaeology, George F. Bass, the distinguished professor of chemistry, Marcetta Y. Darensbourg, the distinguished professor of physics Marlan O. Scully, the distinguished professor of mathematics Ronald A. DeVore, the professor of physics David M. Lee, and the professor of physics Dudley R. Herschbach.
“We are honored to elect a new class of extraordinary women and men to join our distinguished membership,” stated the Chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors, Don Randel. “Each new member is a leader in his or her field and has made a distinct contribution to the nation and the world. We look forward to engaging them in the intellectual life of this vibrant institution.”
“The honor of election is also a call to service,” also explained the president of the Academy, Jonathan Fanton. “Through its projects, publications, and events, the Academy provides its members with opportunities to discover common interests and find common ground. We invite every new member to participate in our important and rewarding work.”
Last year, Texas A&M University announced that an unexpected scientific discovery from a student working in Karen L. Wooley’s organic nanomaterials-based research laboratory led to an entirely new polymer discovery that could allow the development of healthcare-oriented nanomaterials.