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Research Professor Sean Carroll, Trustee David Chavez (BS '96), and 10 Additional Alumni Elected to the AAAS

Sean Carroll, a research professor of physics at Caltech and communicator of science, trustee David Chavez (BS '96), and 10 additional Caltech alumni have been elected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Carroll was recognized for "distinguished contributions to cosmology, gravity, and dark matter research, as well as exceptional contributions in communicating and promoting science to the public," while Chavez was honored "for distinguished contributions to the field of energetic materials, particularly the development of highly energetic, fundamentally novel and environmentally friendly materials important to national security."

Carroll received a bachelor's degree in astronomy and astrophysics with a minor in philosophy from Villanova University in 1988 and a PhD in astronomy from Harvard University in 1993. He previously held positions at MIT, UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Chicago, before joining Caltech in 2006. Carroll also holds the title of external professor at the Santa Fe Institute.

His research covers a broad range of theoretical physics topics including dark matter, dark energy, modified gravity, topological defects, extra dimensions, and violations of fundamental symmetries. More recently, Carroll has focused on foundational questions in quantum physics, which he says brings a "more philosophical dimension" to his work.

A prolific science communicator, Carroll has authored numerous books, including most recently Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime. He is also the creator and host of a podcast called Mindscape and, recently, developed a video series called The Biggest Ideas in the Universe. Carroll has served as the science adviser to many movies and TV Shows, including ThorThe Big Bang Theory, and Fringe.

Chavez, elected to Caltech's Board of Trustees in 2017, is a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico. After graduating from Caltech with honors in 1996, he received a PhD in chemistry from Harvard in 2003, and then went to LANL for his postdoctoral work as a Frederick Reines Distinguished Fellow. He became a staff member in 2006. He is currently part of the High Explosives Science and Technology group.

Chavez received Caltech's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2014 and the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award from the Department of Energy in 2011. He is an adjunct chemistry professor at the University of New Mexico-Taos.

The AAAS also recognized the following Caltech alumni:

  • L. Catherine Brinson (MS '86, PhD '90), Duke University: for distinguished contributions to the field of mechanics of materials, particularly for hierarchical characterization and modeling of nanostructured polymers and shape memory alloys.
  • Ronald W. Davis (PhD '70; DAA), Stanford University: for pioneering work in functional genomics and clinical genomics, and in particular his development of novel technologies. 
  • Aaron Dominguez (BS '92), Catholic University of America: for distinguished contributions to experimental high-energy physics.   
  • Andrea Donnellan (MS '88, PhD '92), NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory: in recognition of outstanding research, innovation, project management, and service to the community in geodesy, seismology, geophysics, and technology.
  • Peter Fisher (PhD '88), Massachusetts Institute of Technology: for imaginative contributions at the interface of particle, nuclear and cosmic ray physics, and for his leadership in promoting a values-based approach to science policy.
  • Norman Murray (BS '79), Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics: for theoretical work providing key insights into a broad range of astrophysical topics encompassing planetary science, star formation, galaxy evolution, and active galactic nuclei.
  • Nirao M. Shah (MS '96, PhD '97), Stanford University: for exceptional contributions to the field of behavioral neuroscience, particularly the dissection of neural circuits and transcriptomics controlling social behaviors.
  • James M. Takacs (PhD '81), University of Nebraska-Lincoln: for distinguished contributions to synthetic organic chemistry, commitment to mentoring and excellence in postsecondary chemical education, and the advancement of science through academic administration.
  • H. Holden Thorp (PhD '89), Science family of journals: for distinguished contributions to research in inorganic chemistry, leadership roles at two great American research universities, and stewardship of the Science family of journals.   
  • Lan Yang (MS '00, PhD '05), Washington University in St. Louis: for groundbreaking contributions to the fields of photonics, particularly for pioneering experimental studies on non-Hermitian photonics, optical sensing, and light-matter interactions in optical resonators.

AAAS fellows, according to the association's website, are "a distinguished cadre of scientists, engineers, and innovators who have been recognized for their achievements across disciplines, from research, teaching, and technology, to administration in academia, industry, and government, to excellence in communicating and interpreting science to the public."

More information about AAAS fellows can be found on the AAAS website.

Written by Whitney Clavin

Whitney Clavin
(626) 395-1944