Coates, Gruner, Saloff-Coste and Skorton elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Cornell President David J. Skorton and three fellow faculty members are among 212 newly elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the academy announced April 19. The new class of fellows includes leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities and the arts.

The faculty are: Geoffrey W. Coates, the Tisch University Professor and professor of chemistry and chemical biology; Sol Gruner, the John L. Wetherill Professor of Physics and director of the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS); and Laurent Saloff-Coste: professor and chair in the Department of Mathematics.

Coates, who joined the faculty in 1997, studies the development of new catalysts that can be used for the synthesis of small molecules and polymers. His interdisciplinary research focuses on the development of new synthetic strategies for producing polymers of defined structure, addressing problems at the interface of organic, inorganic, organometallic and polymer chemistry.

In February, Thomson Reuters identified Coates as one of the world's top 100 chemists over the past 10 years. Coates is also a co-founder of Novomer, a sustainable chemistry company based on his research. The company was recently named one of the 50 most innovative companies in the world by MIT's Technology Review magazine.

Gruner, who joined the Cornell faculty in 1997, studies biological physics, polymer and other soft condensed matter physics, X-ray and synchrotron radiation science and scientific instrumentation. In addition to CHESS, one of the most powerful and productive synchrotron X-ray facilities in the world, he leads a laboratory aimed at understanding the structure and properties of proteins, lyotropic liquid crystals, block co-polymers and mesoporous composites.

The research probes how pressure affects the structures of proteins and alters protein function, and more generally provides insight as to the role of pressure in biology. Gruner also studies composite polymer-inorganic materials that can be designed to form complex structures with potential applications ranging from catalysis to photonic crystals.

Saloff-Coste, who came to Cornell in 1998, is an analyst who also studies probability theory and geometric group theory. His work examines different aspects of heat diffusion on manifolds from the perspective of partial differential equations and stochastic processes, with a focus on properties that relate to the large-scale geometry of the underlying space.

He also studies the behavior of random walks on groups, a class of processes that provide discrete approximations for heat diffusion, and finite Markov chains and the mathematics of card shuffling.

Skorton, who joined Cornell as its 12th president in 2006, also is a professor of medicine and medicine in pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and in biomedical engineering at the College of Engineering on the Ithaca campus.

While at the University of Iowa for 26 years, Skorton co-founded and co-directed the Adolescent and Adult Congenital Heart Disease Clinic. His research focused on congenital heart disease in adolescents and adults, cardiac imaging and computer image processing. He has published two major texts in the areas of cardiac imaging and image processing.

Among many leadership roles and affiliations, Skorton is immediate past chair of the Business-Higher Education Forum; life member of the Council on Foreign Relations; co-chair of the advisory board for the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities; and member of the National Advisory Council for the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health.

The new class of academy fellows will be inducted Oct. 1 in Cambridge, Mass.

Founded in 1780, the academy is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems.

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Blaine Friedlander