Five UC San Diego Experts Elected AAAS Fellows in 2020

Recognition by American Association for the Advancement of Science honors their contributions in astrophysics, research advocacy, organic chemistry, psychiatry and geophysics

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Five researchers and leaders at University of California San Diego have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest general science organization in the world and publisher of the journal Science.

Steven Boggs, PhD; Angela Phillips Diaz; Tadeusz Molinski, PhD; Abraham Palmer, PhD; and David Sandwell, PhD, will join 484 other scientists and physicians across the country recognized this year for work deemed scientifically or socially distinguished, advancing science or its applications.

Steven Boggs, PhD, is a professor of physics, Chancellor's Associates Endowed Chair in Physics, member of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences and dean of the Division of Physical Sciences at UC San Diego. He is an experimental astrophysicist who has extensive leadership experience in both NASA scientific programs and university administrative roles. Throughout his administrative career, Boggs has prioritized equity and inclusion in support of diversity. As an experimental high-energy astrophysicist, Boggs specializes in developing X-ray, gamma-ray and cosmic-ray instruments to study physical processes in the universe. His primary interest is the detailed measurement of radioactive nuclei produced in the inner regions of supernova explosions as probes of the fundamental physical processes in which they are created.


Angela Phillips Diaz is the executive director of Government Research Relations at UC San Diego, representing the campus at the highest levels of government focused on elevating the visibility of its unique research capabilities through government advocacy. Prior to UC San Diego, she held executive leadership positions in education, government relations, legislative affairs, international relations at NASA, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, UC Riverside, and Purdue University. Diaz has served on international, national and regional non-profit boards of directors, including: Marymount University Board of Trustees, Women in Aerospace Foundation, Marymount University Board of Visitors, ARCS Foundation Science and Engineering Advisory Council. She earned her MBA from Marymount University of Virginia, was a Harvard University Kennedy School of Government Senior Executive Fellow and participated in the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program. Honors include Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges Distinguished Alumni Award, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, Marymount University Alumni Achievement Award and the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award. She has authored papers on education and innovation.


Tadeusz “Ted” Molinski, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, a member of the Skaggs School of

Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and of the Center of Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Throughout his research career, Molinski has demonstrated a broad interest in and mastery of diverse areas of natural products, spectroscopy and synthetic organic chemistry. His research program focuses on the chemistry of marine invertebrates, and he has discovered numerous secondary metabolites. Molinski is a pioneer in the development and application of new methods for defining the structure and configuration of challenging compounds, and he has pushed the limits of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). In 2020, Molinski was honored with the Ernest Guenther Award, the American Chemical Society’s highest honor in natural products chemistry, and he was elected Fellow of the American Society of Pharmacognosy.


Abraham Palmer, PhD, is a professor and vice chair for basic research in the Department of Psychiatry, member of the Institute for Genomic Medicine, and director of the Center for GWAS in Outbred Rats at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Palmer uses quantitative genetic approaches to understand the genetic basis for behavioral differences in humans, rats, mice and zebrafish. He is interested in a variety of traits related to drug and alcohol abuse, and various other psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression and ADHD. In recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS), Palmer’s team has identified genetic variants associated with risk tolerance and loneliness, and found genetic links between ADHD, obesity and the tendency to undervalue future rewards. Palmer, an alumnus who earned his PhD in Biomedical Sciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, is also a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and the International Brain and Neural Genetics Society.


David Sandwell, PhD, is a professor of geophysics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In conjunction with colleagues, Sandwell developed the most detailed map to date of the global sea floor, providing scientists with the first uniform-resolution view of 70 percent of the earth. The effort has opened up new areas of research in marine geology and geophysics. Sandwell uses these data to investigate the tectonics and geodynamics of the ocean basins. His current research focuses on understanding the undersea plate tectonics of uncharted areas of the remote oceans as well as the earthquake cycle along the San Andreas Fault System. His main focus is on teaching and research, where he has graduated 15 PhD students, enjoys teaching graduate and undergraduate classes, and has more than 170 refereed publications.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering group of their respective sections, by three Fellows or by the Association’s chief executive officer. Each steering group then reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and forwards a final list to the AAAS Council. New Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin to commemorate their election.



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