FEATURED NEWS

5 UCLA faculty members elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Clockwise from top left: Paul Taylor, Jason Cong, Tyrone Howard, Ann Carlson and Thomas Smith. (Image courtesy: Trever Ducote / UCLA)

This article was originally published by UCLA Newsroom

Five UCLA faculty members have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies. Ann Carlson, Jason Cong, Tyrone Howard, Thomas Smith and Paul Taylor are among 250 artists, scholars, scientists and leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors chosen for membership this year.

The academy serves as an independent research center convening leaders from across disciplines, professions and perspectives to address significant challenges, with the aim of producing independent and pragmatic studies that inform national and global policy and benefit the public.

New members were elected “for their accomplishments and for the curiosity, creativity and courage required to reach new heights,” said David Oxtoby, the academy’s president. “We invite these exceptional individuals to join in the academy’s work to address serious challenges and advance the common good.”

Ann Carlson
Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law
UCLA School of Law

Carlson, the founding faculty director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA Law, is a leading scholar on air pollution and on climate change law and policy, including the role the Clean Air Act has played in addressing climate change. She recently served as President Biden’s acting administrator and chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, where she led the agency in addressing traffic fatalities, injuries and crashes and in setting the most ambitious fuel economy standards ever adopted. Her tenure at the agency also included addressing the role of automation in vehicle safety. She is currently writing a book on how Los Angeles cleaned up its notoriously polluted air.

“I am both extremely humbled and incredibly honored to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The academy works to address ‘issues of importance to the nation and the world,’ and I hope that my work reflects and will continue to advance the academy’s mission.”

Jason (Jingsheng) Cong
Volgenau Professor for Engineering Excellence
UCLA Samueli School of Engineering

Cong is a distinguished professor of computer science and of electrical and computer engineering whose research interests include electronic design automation, customized computing for machine learning and big-data applications, quantum computing, and highly scalable algorithms. He directs UCLA’s Center for Domain-Specific Computing and leads the VLSI Architecture, Synthesis and Technology lab.

“I am truly honored and humbled by the election to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which includes so many thought-leaders, innovators and educators whom I have long admired. I would like to share this tremendous recognition with all my graduate students, postdocs, collaborators and family members.”


Tyrone Howard

Pritzker Family Professor of Education
UCLA School of Education & Information Studies

Howard is the co–faculty director of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools, the founder and leader of the UCLA Black Male Institute and the co-director of the UCLA Pritzker Center for Stengthening Children and Families.His work addresses issues tied to race, culture, access and educational opportunity for minoritized student populations in Los Angeles and beyond, and his research has helped illuminate the challenges and complexities, as well as the strengths and resilience, that Black and brown students bring to their pursuit of education and learning. A fellow of the National Academy of Education and the 2023–24 president of American Education Research Association, Howard is the author of the books “Equity Now” and of “Why Race and Culture Matter in Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap in America’s Classrooms,” among other publications.

“Election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an incredible honor and recognition. It is a reminder of why the work that we do has to serve the public good in an impactful and transformative way. I’m honored to be among so many individuals who have and continue to make a difference in our society.”


Thomas Smith

Distinguished research professor
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA College

Smith, the founding director of the Center for Tropical Research at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, is an expert on biodiversity in tropical rainforests. Combining molecular genetics and field biology, he has identified new theories of how speciation occurs in rainforests, found more effective ways of prioritizing regions for conservation and investigated how biodiversity is generated and maintained in tropical rainforests. As the founding director of the Congo Basin Institute, he has contributed local training, education and research in pursuit of solutions to critical issues facing the Congo Basin, including climate change, food security, biodiversity and human health.

“It’s a tremendous honor to have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. I am excited about using this platform to advance my work in finding solutions for conserving biodiversity, particularly in the tropics.”


Paul Taylor

Presidential Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy, UCLA College

Taylor’s research focuses primarily on aesthetics, the philosophy of race, American philosophy and Africana philosophy. The author of “Black Is Beautiful: A Philosophy of Black Aesthetics” and “Race: A Philosophical Introduction,” Taylor is currently working on a book project for Oxford University Press on third-wave race thinking, a book for University of Chicago Press called “Dark Futures,” and a Mellon-funded metastudy of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

“What an unexpected but welcome honor. It’s gratifying to have one’s work acknowledged and appreciated in this way. I quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson — a fellow Academy member — in my acceptance letter: ‘But do your work and I shall know you.’ I’ve tried to do the work. It’s nice to have that seen.”

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and others. Previous academy members include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Margaret Mead, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and more than 125 UCLA faculty members, including Chancellor Gene Block and Nobel Prize winner Andrea Ghez.

Induction ceremonies for new members will take place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this September.