UCSD professors join Einstein, MLK Jr. in honorary organization

SAN DIEGO – Three UC San Diego professors were elected to an honorary organization among a class that includes Michelle Obama and former U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, the university announced Thursday.

UCSD professors Susan Ackerman, Yishi Jin and John Wixted are among the 214 individuals to join the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year. The academy, founded during the American Revolution by John Adams, John Hancock and James Bowdoin, is an honorary society and policy research center.

Figures across the arts, academia, business and government sectors are selected to the academy each year.

UCSD Professors elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (Pictured left to right) Yishi Jin, Susan Ackerman and John Wixted

“While the work of this class includes work never imagined in 1780 — such as cultural studies, cybersecurity, disease ecology, nanotechnology, paleoclimatology and superconductivity — these members embody the founders’ vision of cultivating knowledge that advances, in their words, a `free, virtuous, and independent people,”‘ academy chairwoman Nancy Andrews said.

Ackerman, UCSD Division of Biological Sciences chairwoman, is a professor in the Biological Sciences’ Neurobiology section and the School of Medicine’s Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. She has also served as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator since 2005 and studies mechanisms underlying the loss of neurons in the aging mammalian brain.

In 2018, Ackerman was part of a team that identified a gene that helps prevent the harmful buildup of proteins that can lead to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Jin, the inaugural holder of the Junior Seau Foundation Endowed Chair in Traumatic Brain Injury, serves as the university’s Neurobiology chair and studies the mechanisms related to the development of the nervous system and regeneration of wounded neurons. Her findings have contributed to our understanding regarding human neurological disorders and brain injury.

Wixted, former Department of Psychology chair, works to investigate the cognitive systems related to recognition memory. His recent research has focused on the surprising reliability of eyewitness memory when initially tested using police lineups.

Previous academy members include Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Martin Luther King Jr.

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