UT professors accepted into American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Katie Keenan

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences, one of the oldest U.S. honor societies and policy research centers, accepted two UT professors and researchers as members last week.

Veteran members from the Academy nominated mathematics professor Björn Engquist and George Georgiou, molecular biosciences, chemical and biomedical engineering professor,  to be accepted into the organization. After an 18-month review, both Engquist and Georgiou were made official members. 

Mark Robinson, chief operating officer at the Academy, said becoming a part of the Academy is a prestigious honor.

“Members have the right and opportunity to nominate people that they believe pose excellence in their field,” Robinson said. “[The founders] were looking to create an academy that represented all professions.  … It really is meant to be a swath of the best and the brightest.” 

The Academy recognizes achievement in the natural sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, and gathers researchers together to address national problems. 

Georgiou has made several discoveries in the medical field. His research includes the study of protein therapeutics, especially how proteins can be used to fight against cancerous tumors. 

“We take human enzymes and re-design them so that they can destroy the metabolite cancer cells need,” Georgiou said in an interview with the University. “It destroys the metabolite. … The cancer cells cannot grow, but the normal cells are unaffected.”

Engquist, who specializes in applied mathematics, researches computational methods that could predict the weather or determine if a bridge or other infrastructure can withstand a certain weight. Several of Engquist’s numerical methods and equations have been used in combination with seismology to help model oil reservoirs. 

“A lot of math is abstract,” said Engquist. “This is an opportunity to do math but also to engage in the activities in engineering science, or social science, or wherever. You have the benefits of seeing it being applied in the real world, and you can play around with the math that you love.”

One of Engquist’s mentees, mathematics graduate student Yunan Yang, said that Engquist’s seismological innovations and discoveries go far beyond detecting resources underground.

“The way he does everything makes me feel very confident about the field,” Yang said. “He’s very patient, although the things are trivial for him. Before he received that award, he already was a very famous mathematician.”