Two professors receive nation's top scientific honor

University of Minnesota geology and geophysics professor David Kohlstedt and chemistry professor Donald Truhlar have been elected as members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for their excellence in original scientific research. Membership in the NAS is among the highest honors given to scientists in the United States, and more than 180 living NAS members have also won Nobel Prizes. Among the NAS's renowned members are Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright and Alexander Graham Bell.2009_04_Kohlstedt-D_xsm

Kohlstedt was chosen for his internationally renowned research in rock deformation processes and his study of the physics and chemistry of minerals. Currently, his research involves uncovering dramatic effects of water and melt on the viscosity of lower crustal and upper mantle rocks. He explores the intimately related problem of spontaneous segregation and organization of melt into high-permeability channels. This phenomenon enables rapid movement of melt from deep below Earth's surface upward into volcanic eruptions. His research also emphasizes the profound influence of water on ionic diffusion in silicate minerals. Kohlstedt, an Institute of Technology Distinguished Professor, joined the University of Minnesota's Department of Geology and Geophysics in 1989. He has served as head of the university's Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences for the past three years.2009_04_Truhlar-D_xsm

Truhlar is considered to be among the top physical chemists in the world. He has enhanced the world's basic understanding of the mechanisms of chemical reaction and has developed new and powerful tools for using state-of-the-art supercomputers. His work includes pioneering studies using multidimensional tunneling methods to include quantum effects in the calculation of enzyme reaction rates. He developed the widely used variational transition state theory method for calculating chemical reaction rates, and he has used it for a number of important applications, such as explaining the unexpected and hotly debated temperature-independent kinetic isotope effects in enzyme kinetics and also predicting the temperature dependence of kinetic isotope effects needed for monitoring chemical reactions that affect the earth's climate. Truhlar has served as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota for nearly 40 years. In 2006, he was appointed as a University of Minnesota Regents Professor, the university's highest faculty honor.

"We are extremely proud to have two faculty members receiving the very prestigious honor of being elected to the National Academy of Sciences," said Steven L. Crouch, dean of the Institute of Technology, the University of Minnesota's college of engineering, physical sciences and mathematics. "Their pioneering research has helped put the University of Minnesota on the academic map nationally and internationally, and their outstanding teaching and mentorship skills are a draw for talented graduate students and junior faculty."

Established in 1863, the National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furthering science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. For more information or for the full list of newly elected members, visit

April 28, 2009