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James Kadonaga Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Molecular biologist becomes new member of prestigious society

April 21, 2017

By Inga Kiderra

James Kadonga

James Kadonaga

Three faculty members of the University of California San Diego, including molecular biologist James Kadonaga, have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the country's most esteemed honorary societies and independent policy research centers.

Founded in 1780, the academy convenes some of the world's most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers and artists, as well as civic, business and philanthropic leaders, to respond to society's challenges and opportunities.

Members of the 2017 class include winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Wolf Prize; MacArthur fellows; Fields medalists; Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Arts recipients; and winners of Academy, Grammy, Emmy and Tony awards.

"It is an honor to welcome this new class of exceptional women and men as part of our distinguished membership," said Don Randel, chair of the academy's board of directors. "Their talents and expertise will enrich the life of the academy and strengthen our capacity to spread knowledge and understanding in service to the nation."

The new UC San Diego members, who will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 7, 2017 in Cambridge, Mass., are:

  • James T. Kadonaga, Amylin Endowed Chair and a distinguished professor in the Division of Biological Sciences, has made many key advances in the understanding of how genes are turned on and off. His research has focused on transcription, the first step in the activation of genes, as well as the function of chromatin, the natural state of DNA in our cells. This work has led to a better understanding of a diverse range of biological phenomena, including many human diseases. He joined UC San Diego's faculty in 1988. He was elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1994 and fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 1995. From 2003 to 2007, he served as the chair of the Section of Molecular Biology. In 2012, he received the UC San Diego Chancellor's Associates Faculty Excellence Award for Research in Science and Engineering.
  • Pradeep K. Khosla, UC San Diego's eighth chancellor, is internationally renowned for his seminal contributions in embedded software, intelligent robot systems, and design. His contributions include the CMU Direct Drive Arm II; the first Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm configuration direct drive manipulator; the CMU Reconfigurable Modular Manipulator System; real-time operating system Chimera; and the distributed and collaborating robot system Millibots. Khosla initiated and led UC San Diego's first-ever Strategic Plan, and he recently launched the public phase of The Campaign for UC San Diego – an ambitious and bold $2 billion endeavor – aimed at transforming the university. Khosla has strengthened community relationships and partnerships, and has expanded college access and affordability for underserved populations by creating the Chancellor's Associates Scholarship program that allows for loan-free education for up to 800 students a year. Khosla's leadership in education and research has been recognized by several awards: the ASEE George Westinghouse Award for Education, the W. Wallace McDowell award from IEEE Computer Society, and the ASME Computers in Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering.
  • Valerie A. Ramey, a professor of economics and a former chair of that department in the Division of Social Sciences, studies the impact of government spending, the sources of economic fluctuations, wage inequality, and trends in time use. She has examined how increases in spending by the U.S. government have affected GDP and unemployment, and her estimates have influenced projections about the effects of government stimulus programs. Her time-use work with Garey Ramey (also at UC San Diego) documents and explains the dramatic increase in time spent caring for children by college-educated parents, a phenomenon they dubbed the "Rug Rat Race." Valerie Ramey, who won the Chancellor's Associates Faculty Excellence Award for Undergraduate Teaching in 2008, is a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and sits on the NBER committee that determines the official start and end of U.S. recessions. The 2017-18 vice president of the American Economic Association, she is also a member of the Panel of Economic Advisers to the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Faith Ringgold, professor emeritus, taught in the Department of Visual Arts from 1987 through 2002. She began her artistic career as a painter and is most celebrated today for her painted story quilts, combining painting, quilted fabric and storytelling. As Ringgold noted in a 2001 PBS interview, "… most people understand quilts and not a lot of people understand paintings. But yet they're looking at one. When they're looking at my work, they're looking at a painting and they're able to accept it better because it is also a quilt." She has been honored with more than 75 awards, notably the Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship for painting, two National Endowment for the Arts awards, and 17 honorary doctorates. Ringgold received the 2017 College Art Association Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement and is widely considered one of the most influential living African-American artists.

See the full list of academy members and the UC San Diego list.