Three U.Va. Faculty Members Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Headshots left to right: Peter Onuf, Donald Hunt and Stephen Plog

L-R: Peter Onuf, Donald Hunt and Stephen Plog

University of Virginia chemist Donald Hunt, historian Peter Onuf and archaeologist Stephen Plog now have something in common with actor Al Pacino and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich: They are all among those newly elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

This year’s 204-member class of the world’s most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts include winners of Nobel and Pulitzer prizes; the National Medal of the Arts; MacArthur, Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships; and Grammy, Emmy, Oscar and Tony awards. 

The elections of Hunt, Onuf and Plog increase the number of U.Va. faculty members in the academy to 36. Herbert “Chip” Tucker, John C. Coleman Professor of English, was the last previous U.Va. faculty member elected to the academy, in 2011.

“This is a great honor for these faculty members who have distinguished themselves in their respective fields,” U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “Their election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is a testament to their individual achievements, and it brings considerable honor to the University as well. All of us in the U.Va. community are proud and grateful.”

The trio join an elite group of members this year, including computer scientist Daphne Koller, cofounder of Coursera; Dan Shechtman, 2011 Nobel laureate in chemistry; sociologist Sherry Turkle, who explores human relationships with technology; author John Irving; actor Al Pacino; and Pulitzer Prize winners Jules Feiffer and Annie Proulx. (The full list of the new members is located here.)

“It is a privilege to honor these men and women for their extraordinary individual accomplishments,” said Don Randel, chair of the academy’s board of directors. “The knowledge and expertise of our members give the academy a unique capacity – and responsibility – to provide practical policy solutions to the pressing challenges of the day. We look forward to engaging our new members in this work.”

One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the academy is also a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts and education.

The new members will be inducted at an Oct. 11 ceremony at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

A closer look at the University’s newest AAAS members:

Donald F. Hunt

During a career spanning more than 40 years, Hunt, University Professor of Chemistry and Pathology, has become widely recognized for his groundbreaking contributions to the fields using mass spectrometry. He pioneered efforts to develop methods and instrumentation that set the standard for ultrasensitive detection and characterization of proteins and peptides.

The research has had a dramatic impact on studies in immunology, cell signaling, stem cell biology and the development of vaccines and treatments that stimulate the immune system to both fight and prevent cancer.

Hunt, a member of the U.Va. Cancer Center, received U.Va.’s Distinguished Scientist Award in 2010 and the School of Medicine Dean’s Award for Excellence in Team Science with Victor Engelhard and Dr. Craig Slingluff in 2012.

He said that if he could, he would add his numerous collaborators to this latest recognition. “My research has touched more than 100 other researchers at U.Va. because it effects so many areas,” he said.

Since joining the faculty in 1968, he has mentored more than 85 doctoral and postdoctoral students and taught organic chemistry to more than 14,000 premedical students.

Listed as a co-inventor on more than 25 patents and patent applications, Hunt has co-written more than 350 scholarly publications and ranks among the top 130 most highly cited chemists in the world.

Peter S. Onuf

Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor Emeritus of History, is a leading scholar of Thomas Jefferson and the early American republic. He just finished teaching a massive open online course, “Age of Jefferson,” this semester.

Onuf also has become well known as one of the three co-hosts of the weekly public radio program and podcast, “Backstory with the American History Guys,” produced at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. In each episode, U.Va. history professor Brian Balogh, University of Richmond President Edward Ayers and Onuf “tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths,” as the website says.

The show is currently broadcast by 36 primary public radio stations, serving 72 communities in 20 states and Washington, D.C. More than 40 other public stations, many in major markets, regularly air “BackStory” episodes as specials.

Among the dozen books Onuf has written or edited are “The Mind of Thomas Jefferson” (2007); “The Revolution of 1800: Democracy, Race and the New Republic” (2002), with James Horn and Jan Ellen Lewis; “Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood” (2001); and “Jeffersonian Legacies” (1993).

Onuf is a senior research fellow at Monticello’s Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. He was the 2008-09 Harold Vyvyan Harmsworth Professor of American History at the University of Oxford.

He was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

Stephen Plog

Plog, David A. Harrison Professor in the anthropology department, has conducted archaeological fieldwork on prehistoric Native American cultures in the Southwest for more than four decades – most recently focused on the Chaco Canyon region of northwestern New Mexico, which he said is perhaps the most important center of the Pueblo world in the 11th and 12th centuries. His research addresses key aspects of social organization, demography, ritual and cosmology. 

Since 2002, Plog has worked with several other scholars to create the Chaco Research Archive, an online archive allowing users to access information from excavations conducted within the Chaco Canyon region over the last century. The core of the database was constructed with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and in cooperation with U.Va.’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.

He has published two editions of the text, “Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest.” In addition to a long list of research articles, he contributed a chapter, “Sustaining Digital Scholarship in Archaeology,” to U.Va. English professor Jerome McGann’s 2010 book, “Online Humanities Scholarship: The Shape of Things to Come.”

Plog, elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2007, was in Austin, Texas on Wednesday for the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology and had not yet received the official notification of his AAAS election. A friend told him to expect something from Federal Express today, but he did not learn of his election until a reporter emailed him.

“I was surprised,” he said. “I was not expecting this at all.”

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Anne E. Bromley

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