Valeria Molinero, Distinguished Professor and Jack and Peg Simons Endowed Professor of Theoretical Chemistry, is among the 252 newly elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world and work together.
Among those joining Molinero in the Class of 2021 are neuroscientist and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay K. Gupta, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times and media entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey.
Molinero joins 16 other members affiliated with the U, including Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi, Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO Mary Beckerle and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Kristen Hawkes. The U’s first member was chemist and National Medal of Science recipient Henry Eyring, elected in 1958. Molinero currently directs a center for theoretical chemistry named for Eyring.
“I am surprised and elated by this recognition,” Molinero said. “My most pervasive feeling is gratitude: to my trainees and collaborators for sharing with me the joy of science and discovery, to my colleagues and scientific community for their encouragement and recognition, and to the University of Utah for the support that has provided me throughout all my independent career.”
Molinero and her lab use computational simulations to understand the molecule-by-molecule process of how ice forms and how polymers, proteins and other compounds can either aid or inhibit the formation of ice. In 2019, the U awarded her its Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award. In 2020, she and her colleagues received the Cozzarelli Prize from the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for finding that the smallest nanodroplet of water that can form ice is around 90 molecules. Their research has application ranging from climate modeling to achieving the perfect texture of ice cream.
“This is not surprising, as Vale is just an outstanding scientist and colleague,” said Matt Sigman, chemistry department chair.
“Vale Molinero is among the most influential theoretical and computational chemists of her generation,” said Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science. “ Today’s announcement is a fitting recognition of her exceptional career.”
The College of Science now features eight Academy members, including five from the Department of Chemistry.
The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. Studies compiled by the Academy have helped set the direction of research and analysis in science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy, education and the humanities.
Current Academy members represent today’s innovative thinkers in every field and profession, including more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners.