Thanks to Texas A&M chemist Karen Wooley's expertise at scales 100 times thinner than a human hair and the versatility of polymers, the research possibilities are highly adaptable and virtually limitless in a host of industries and applications ranging from materials to medicine. (Credit: Robb Kendrick/Texas A&M Foundation.)


Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Dr. Karen L. Wooley has been elected as a 2015 Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one the country's oldest and most prestigious honorary learned societies.

Wooley, holder of the W.T. Doherty-Welch Chair in Chemistry and one of the world's top chemists in the burgeoning field of materials and polymer chemistry, is one of the 181 new fellows and 16 new foreign honorary members announced by the Academy today (April 22). Drawn from the sciences, the arts and humanities, business, public affairs and the non-profit sector, the 197 scholars, scientists, writers, artists, civic, corporate and philanthropic leaders include winners of the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize; MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships; and Grammy, Emmy, Oscar and Tony Awards.

"We are honored to elect a new class of extraordinary women and men to join our distinguished membership," said Don Randel, Chair of the Academy's Board of Directors. "Each new member is a leader in his or her field and has made a distinct contribution to the nation and the world. We look forward to engaging them in the intellectual life of this vibrant institution."

Academy President Jonathan Fanton added, "The honor of election is also a call to service. Through its projects, publications, and events, the Academy provides its members with opportunities to discover common interests and find common ground. We invite every new member to participate in our important and rewarding work."

Wooley joins Dr. George F. Bass, distinguished professor emeritus of nautical archaeology (2012), Dr. Marcetta Y. Darensbourg, distinguished professor of chemistry (2011), Dr. Marlan O. Scully, distinguished professor of physics (2008), Dr. Ronald A. DeVore, distinguished professor of mathematics (2001), Dr. David M. Lee, professor of physics (1990), and Dr. Dudley R. Herschbach, professor of physics (1964), as current Texas A&M faculty members featured in the eminent society. One of Wooley's longtime colleagues, the late Texas A&M inorganic chemist Dr. F. Albert Cotton, ranks as the university's inaugural honoree, earning election in 1962.

"My department and my colleagues were extremely fortunate to recognize Karen's superb intellect and her already enormous impact on soft-materials science at a stage in her career when she was open to an offer to enhance her laboratories and operation by a move to Texas A&M University," said Darensbourg, a 2011 Academy Fellow who served as Wooley's nominator for the prestigious honor. "What we did not realize was the full extent to which Karen is a dynamo; a force of nature. She is an outstanding colleague, generous with her leadership abilities and with her intellect. She is an equally outstanding teacher-professor, giving her all to the students in her polymer chemistry course that is oversubscribed each semester it is offered. She continues to build collaborations in medicine and engineering that develop applications in drug delivery and microelectronics -- two examples among many in her vast research portfolio."

Wooley will be officially inducted as an Academy Fellow at an October 10 ceremony at the Academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

"We are thrilled to see Karen get this well deserved honor," said Dr. H. Joseph Newton, dean of the College of Science. "Not only is she a great researcher, but she is an outstanding mentor and great citizen of the department, college and university."

A member of the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry faculty since 2009, Wooley also holds joint appointments in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Last year, she was recognized with the Royal Society of Chemistry's Centenary Prize for 2014 and as the first woman to receive the American Chemical Society Award in Polymer Chemistry, a prestigious accolade honoring outstanding fundamental contributions and achievements toward addressing global needs for advanced polymer systems and materials.

Wooley's 30-member research group spans seven distinct project areas and has an annual budget of more than $1.5 million, all dedicated toward some pioneering facet of organic polymer-based chemistry focused on creating new matter at the nanoscale level. The National Science Foundation has supported her research, education and outreach activities for 20 years. In addition, she has served for the past 10 years as the director of a $33 million Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology (PEN) supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The award, which runs through 2015, supports nanoparticle-focused research expected to dramatically alter the future of medical practice with regard to detection, diagnosis and treatment of lung and cardiovascular diseases.

Wooley currently is an associate editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society and chair of the National Institutes of Health NANO study section, among many other advisory roles within the broader scientific community.

"This is a most deserved accolade for our colleague, Karen Wooley, who has been a force in our department since she joined us in 2009," said Dr. François P. Gabbaï, professor and head of the Department of Chemistry and holder of the Arthur E. Martell Endowed Chair. "In addition to excelling in research, Karen is also a superb teacher and departmental citizen. I feel very fortunate to have her as a colleague and thank her for the overwhelmingly positive impact she has made at Texas A&M. Congratulations, Karen!"

Founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences features many of the finest minds and most influential leaders from each generation, including some 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. As a leading center for independent policy research, the Academy and its members undertake studies of complex and emerging problems, including science and technology policy, global security, social policy and American institutions, the humanities and education.

For more information on the Academy as well as a list of current Fellows, visit http://www.amacad.org.

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About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $820 million in FY 2013, ranking Texas A&M in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation's most recent survey of research and development expenditures among U.S. colleges and universities. Recently reported FY 2014 research expenditures exceed $854 million. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@tamu.edu or Dr. Karen L. Wooley, (979) 845-4077 or wooley@chem.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. Karen L. Wooley

    (Credit: James Lyle, Texas Transportation Institute.)

  • Wooley's 30-member research group spans seven distinct project areas and manages an annual budget of more than $1.5 million. The lab features graduate students and postdocs, as well as undergraduates -- each responsible for a variety of roles critical to myriad research projects sponsored by the likes of the National Science Foundation, The Welch Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and the National Institutes of Health, among others. (Credit: Robb Kendrick/Texas A&M Foundation.)

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