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Two UC San Diego Scientists Elected to Royal Society

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Two University of California San Diego professors have been elected to the prestigious Fellowship of the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s national academy of sciences.

Nigel Goldenfeld, a Chancellor’s distinguished professor of physics, and Mark H. Thiemens, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, were among the more than 90 exceptional researchers from around the world elected to the Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. Fellowship is granted to individuals who have made a "substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science."

"We are incredibly proud of the election of Professors Nigel Goldenfeld and Mark H. Thiemens to the esteemed Royal Society,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “As exceptional educators and mentors, they inspire and guide our students to reach their full potential. Moreover, their groundbreaking research tackles some of the most critical scientific challenges of our era, driving innovation and positively impacting our global community.”   

Founded in 1660, Royal Society Fellows have included scientists such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. New members of the 2024 cohort include Nobel laureate Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier, Emmy winner Andrew Fitzgibbon, and former Chief Medical Advisor to the U.S. President Anthony Fauci.

“Being elected to the prestigious Fellowship of the Royal Society is a true mark of scientific distinction and accomplishment. They are both tremendous scientists whose fundamental research continues to break new ground,” said Dean of the School of Physical Sciences Christine A. Hrycyna. 

“Nigel’s work on emergent states of matter and how patterns evolve in time have had tremendous impact on multiple scientific fields, from the statistical dynamics of turbulence flow to the origins of life. Mark’s discovery of the mass independent isotope effect has also contributed immensely to numerous research areas, including the understanding of the origin of our solar system and climate change,” said Hrycyna. “I and the entire School of Physical Sciences are extremely proud of them and their remarkable achievements.”

Nigel Goldenfeld headshot

Nigel Goldenfeld 

Chancellor's Distinguished Professor of Physics

Nigel Goldenfeld is the Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Physics at UC San Diego, where he also holds appointments in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Department of Bioengineering and the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute. He joined UC San Diego in 2021 after a 36-year tenure at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, he conducted postdoctoral work on the dynamics of snowflake growth which helped launch the modern theory of pattern formation in nature. At UIUC, his work was instrumental in the discovery of d-wave pairing in high-temperature superconductors. Goldenfeld also directed a NASA Astrobiology Institute focused on the early evolution of life.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he pivoted from ecological modeling of bacteria and viruses to computational epidemiology. He advised the Governor of Illinois and helped devise and run a COVID-19 saliva PCR testing system at UIUC, which later expanded to over 1,700 schools in Illinois. He is currently applying non-equilibrium statistical mechanics to understand the laminar-turbulent transition in fluid mechanics and the nature of the strong fluctuations in fully developed turbulence.

Goldenfeld has received the American Physical Society's Leo P. Kadanoff Prize in statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Mark H. Thiemens headshot

Mark H. Thiemens 

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry 
John Dove Isaacs Endowed Chair in Natural Philosophy for Physical Sciences

Mark H. Thiemens is a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego. As the founding dean of physical sciences and chair of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego, he began his career as an assistant professor at the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago.

Thiemens was the first to discover a chemical mass-independent isotope effect, which has applications in understanding the origin of the solar system and quantifying life's evolution over billions of years. He has identified greenhouse gas emissions, elucidated past and present climate change and studied Earth’s chemistry. Thiemens also conducted research on past climates and chemistry using ice samples from the South Pole, the Arctic and Tibet. Additionally, he has built rocket-based samplers for the upper atmosphere and explored the quantum mechanical basis of isotope effects through synchrotron-based experiments.

Throughout his career, Thiemens has received numerous accolades, including two Humboldt Fellowships, the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award, the Goldschmidt Medal and the Leonard Medal. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the Meteoritical Society, the Chemical Society and the European Association for Geochemistry. An asteroid has also been named in his honor (Asteroid 7004 Markthiemens).

Visit the Royal Society’s website to see the full list of newly elected Fellows. 

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