Tech Faculty Members Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Apr 24, 2023 —
A civil engineer, geographer, and biomedical engineer from Georgia Tech have joined the ranks of distinguished artists, thinkers, and scientists as members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, an organization that dates to the early days of the United States.
The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, and others to recognize accomplished individuals and engage them in addressing the greatest challenges facing the nation. Its membership includes Alexander Hamilton as well as the man who played him on Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda — also elected in 2023 with Georgia Tech’s Rafael L. Bras, Marilyn Brown, and Susan Margulies.
Bras is a civil engineer and hydrologist who served for 10 years as Georgia Tech’s provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.
“I have had a wonderful and fulfilling career and enjoyed my share of awards and recognition. Each one has been meaningful and special. But being elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences is different,” said Bras, professor and K. Harrison Brown Family Chair in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “I cannot help wondering how this son of a Puerto Rican civil servant and a home economics teacher got here.”
Bras is a renowned scholar of Earth’s water cycle who, early in his career, helped create the field of hydrologic science by reshaping thinking about water in the environment. He has helped lead significant projects around the world, including efforts to protect Venice, Italy, from flooding. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
“My mother never understood what I did for a living. If she were alive, I could mention that Alexander Graham Bell and Darwin were members. Or that Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and Bob Metcalf, Turing Award winner and inventor of the ethernet, are members. She would not be impressed,” said Bras, who is also a faculty member in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
“If I mentioned that my name will be forever in a list with the likes of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton, Yo-Yo Ma, Pablo Casals, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Sonia Sotomayor, she would be somewhat incredulous — but impressed and very proud.”
Most recently, he has been engaged in understanding the occurrence of landslides and related geohazards triggered by heavy rainfalls, including hurricanes, in his native Puerto Rico. The effort is part of an idea to develop a national center for landslide geohazards research that would be based at Georgia Tech with hubs on the island and elsewhere. He also is editor of a newsletter for leaders to examine global issues with other research and academic leaders.
Marilyn Brown, Regents' Professor and Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems in the School of Public Policy, is a national leader in climate change mitigation studies. Her research focuses on the design and impact of policies aimed at accelerating the development and deployment of sustainable energy technologies.
“I’m grateful and honored to be elected to the company of such esteemed experts,” said Brown. “I look forward to working with them to foster smart and achievable policy solutions to help advance moves toward a new green economy and a more sustainable tomorrow.”
Brown created and co-leads the Climate and Energy Policy Laboratory and the Master of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Management program at Georgia Tech. Leading Drawdown Georgia, Brown and her team track greenhouse gas emissions by source across the state to identify solutions to reach carbon neutrality. She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering.
“In its earliest days, the Academy sought members who would help address issues and opportunities confronting a young nation,” Nancy C. Andrews, chair of the Academy’s board of directors, said in a release announcing the new members. “We feel a similar urgency and have elected a class that brings diverse expertise to meet the pressing challenges and possibilities that America and the world face today.”
An international leader in clean energy policy, Brown is known for her pioneering work developing economic-engineering models incorporating behavioral and social science principles into policy analysis of energy systems. Her influential research quantified the “energy-efficiency gap,” which highlights the importance of promoting cost-effective energy conservation improvements as a tool to improve energy security and reduce the impact of climate change.
In 2000, she led the Scenarios for a Clean Energy Future project, which at the time was the most detailed carbon-reduction analysis funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Later, she contributed to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group that was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
The Academy also elected Susan Margulies, who remains on the Georgia Tech faculty as a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering while leading the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Engineering. She’s a research leader in pediatric traumatic brain injury and lung injury associated with mechanical ventilators. She was elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine in 2020. She stepped down as chair of the Coulter Department in 2021 to accept the NSF appointment.
The Academy’s 2023 class also includes geneticists, historians, economists, and authors. Among them are Ilya Kaminsky, a poet and essayist, and Reginald DesRoches, president of Rice University. Both are former Georgia Tech faculty members.