Seven campus members elected to American Academy of Arts and Science

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The American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced the election of seven UC Berkeley staff and faculty to its society, which boasts an assortment of Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize recipients and Oscar winners among its members.

UC Berkeley was represented by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, former executive vice chancellor and provost George Breslauer, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy Robert Reich, math professors Edward Frenkel and Daniel Tataru, physics professor Alex Zettl and atmospheric science professor Inez Fung among the 204 total members inducted into the Academy this year.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is also an independent policy research center that gathers academic, business and government leaders to address global issues. As an honorary society, the Academy, which does not disclose its selection process, celebrates people who have made considerable strides within the fields of either arts, sciences or both. Those previously selected include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein.

“I feel very humble and proud to join the Academy, which has such a storied past,” said Frenkel, whose work encompasses the fields of mathematics, writing and film.

Frenkel said he hopes to use his new title to inspire more people to view mathematics as an art form, adding that the curriculum of math education taught in grade school needs updating.

“The new generation of students get exposed much earlier through smartphones, tablets — they understand that this stuff is all based on mathematics,” Frenkel said. “It’s about showing people about different sides of mathematics, opening it up and seeing the big picture.”

The solution, Frenkel suggests, lies in crafting a more inclusive curriculum that will introduce mathematics as a subject that goes beyond crunching numbers[,] to provide a new way of thinking and approaching the world.

Frenkel also said he hopes to meet actor Al Pacino, another newly elected member of the Academy.

“(Frenkel is) someone whose work in several areas I greatly admire. He’s unafraid to venture down other areas,” said Thomas Farber, a campus senior lecturer in English who co-wrote with Frenkel a screenplay about a mathematician and a writer entitled “The Two-Body Problem.”

The entire 2014 list of elected members includes eight from UCLA, two from UC Santa Barbara, three from UC Davis, one from UC Irvine, two from UC San Diego and two from UC San Francisco, as well as UC Regent Sherry Lansing. Last year, 10 UC Berkeley professors were inducted into the Academy.

Elected members will attend a ceremony on Oct. 11 in Cambridge, Mass., where they will become formally inducted into the Academy.

Lydia Tuan covers research and ideas. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @tuanlydia.

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