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Two USC Faculty Elected to Nation’s Top Scientific and Arts Academies

April 30, 2006 —
Two University of Southern California professors with joint appointments in the Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC College — Leonard M. Adleman and Robert Willis Hellwarth — have been elected to the nation’s top scientific and arts academies for their research accomplishments and contributions to society at large.

Adleman, a professor of computer science and molecular biology, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).  He is known for his work in public cryptography and for creating the field of molecular computing. 

Leonard Adleman

In addition to NAS, he and Hellwarth, a professor of electrical engineering-systems and physics, have been named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).  Hellwarth has made major contributions to the understanding of quantum electronics and the invention of new laser devices. 

“Professors Adleman and Hellwarth’s contributions to science and technology, and to society, have been nothing short of remarkable,” said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the Viterbi School.  “It is very gratifying that these two prestigious academies have recognized their outstanding interdisciplinary work, which straddles electrical engineering, computer science, physics, and molecular biology.”

Election to the National Academy of Sciences is considered one of the highest honors in American science and engineering.  Membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is broad-based, consisting of scholars and practitioners from mathematics, physics, biological sciences, humanities and the arts, public affairs and business, which gives the Academy a unique capacity to conduct a wide range of interdisciplinary studies and public policy research.

"Throughout its history, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has convened the leading thinkers of the day, from diverse perspectives, to participate in projects and studies that advance the public good," added Academy CEO Leslie Berlowitz. "I am confident that this distinguished class of new Fellows will continue that tradition of cherishing knowledge and shaping the future."
Adleman is a USC Distinguished Professor and the Henry Salvatori Professor of Computer Science.  He is also a professor of molecular biology in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. 

In 1977, with Ronald L. Rivest and Adi Shamir, he co-developed an algorithm known as the RSA Code for the initials of the three researchers.  The RSA Code became the foundation for an entire generation of technology security products, and Adleman and his collaborators later received the A. M. Turing Prize, sometimes called the Nobel Prize of computing.

In a 1994 paper, Adleman demonstrated that DNA molecules could act as a computer and he used it to solve a simple problem, creating the new field of molecular computing. Eight years later, he demonstrated how to use DNA computing to solve complex problems.

"Len Adleman’s election to the National Academy represents a special achievement, because it shows how much those most familiar with his scientific contributions -- his peers -- value his work," said Joseph Aoun, dean of USC College. "These two honors bring well-deserved recognition of all that Len has achieved, including his pioneering discoveries in cryptography and prime number theory and, for more than a decade, his work on the fascinating frontier between information theory and molecular sciences."

Hellwarth is a USC University Professor who has joint appointments in the Viterbi School’s Department of Electrical Engineering-Electrophysics, where he holds the George T. Pfleger Chair, and in the USC College Department of Physics.

Robert Hellwarth

He has received the L. A. Hyland Patent Award, the Charles Hard Townes Award, given by the Optical Society of America, and IEEE’s Quantum Electronics Award.  In addition to AAAS, he has been elected to both the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

"Robert Hellwarth remains one of the best examples of scholars committed to both advancing fundamental research and the development of those discoveries into useful applications," Aoun said. "We salute his most recent honor."

With their recent elections as Fellows of the AAAS, Hellwarth and Adleman join Viterbi School colleagues Solomon Golomb and Andrew Viterbi as the only other faculty members at USC with simultaneous memberships in NAE, NAS and AAAS.  

Adleman is among 72 new members of the National Academy of Sciences.  He and Hellwarth join 195 scholars, scientists, artists, civic, corporate and philanthropic leaders elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year.  AAAS recipients come from 24 states and 13 countries, and represent more than 60 universities, a dozen corporations, museums, research institutes, media outlets and foundations. The 2006 AAAS Fellows also include former presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences will welcome its new class at the annual AAAS induction ceremony, to be held Oct. 7 at the Academy's headquarters in Cambridge, MA.  The NAS has not yet announced a date for its induction ceremony.  
--Diane Ainsworth