Collins Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

By Mark Dwortzan

Professor James J. Collins (BME, MSE, SE)
Professor James J. Collins (BME, MSE, SE)

Professor James J. Collins (BME, MSE, SE) has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honor that places him among the world’s most accomplished leaders in academia, business, public affairs, the humanities and the arts. Collins was recognized for his contributions to engineering sciences and technologies, and has been invited to attend an induction ceremony on October 6 at the Academy’s Cambridge headquarters.

One of the nation’s most prestigious honor societies, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation since its founding in 1780, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

“I was surprised by the news, but thrilled to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” said Collins. “It is a great honor to become affiliated with a prestigious organization created by the founding fathers.”

A pioneer in both synthetic and systems biology, Collins is developing innovative ways to design and reprogram gene networks within bacteria and other organisms to perform desired tasks that could bring about cheaper drugs, more effective treatments of antibiotic-resistant infections, and clean energy solutions. Also a trailblazer in efforts to improve function of physiological and biological systems, he has spearheaded several new medical devices such as vibrating insoles to improve balance in elderly people and a device to treat stroke-induced brain failure.

In addition to serving BU as William F. Warren Distinguished Professor, University Professor, and co-director of the Center for BioDynamics, Collins is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and founding core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. His many honors include membership in the National Academy of Engineering, a MacArthur “Genius Award,”  a World Technology Award for Biotechnology, a National Institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award, the Lagrange-CRT Foundation Prize, the Metcalf Cup and Prize (BU’s highest teaching honor) and being named on the Scientific American list of top 50 outstanding leaders in science and technology. Collins serves on the scientific advisory board of several biotechnology companies.

As a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, he will be invited to contribute to AAAS publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, the humanities and culture, and education.

“Election to the Academy is both an honor for extraordinary accomplishment and a call to serve,” said Academy President Leslie C. Berlowitz. “We look forward to drawing on the knowledge and expertise of these distinguished men and women to advance solutions to the pressing policy challenges of the day.”

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