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Three Professors Named to National Academy of Sciences

Economist, Geologist and Engineer Bring UMD’s Total to 24

By Laura Ours and Darcy Long and Abby Robinson

Tulips by the sundial on McKeldin Mall

The number of University of Maryland faculty members who are members of national academies rose to 61 with the election of Distinguished University Professors Katharine Abraham, Edward Ott and Richard Walker to the National Academy of Sciences.

Mall photo by John T. Consoli

The National Academy of Sciences elected three Distinguished University Professors from the University of Maryland to its 2022 class of 120 members and 30 international members in recognition of their exceptional and continuing achievements in original research.

Katharine Abraham of the Department of Economics and in the Joint Program in Survey Methodology, Edward Ott of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Physics, and Richard J. Walker of the Department of Geology bring the number of UMD faculty members in the academy to 24, and the number in all national academies to 61.

Katharine Abraham headshot

“I am truly honored to have been elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. The academy has a well-earned reputation for providing independent and objective analysis and advice to the nation. I hope to be able to contribute to that work,” said Abraham, who is also affiliated with the Maryland Population Research Center.

Her research focuses on topics including the contingent workforce, work and retirement decisions of older Americans, labor market adjustment over the business cycle, unemployment and job vacancies, and the measurement of economic activity.

Among many accolades, Abraham is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a distinguished fellow of the American Economic Association, and an elected fellow of the American Statistical Association and of the Society of Labor Economists.

She is a past president of the Society of Labor Economists and current chair of the Conference on Research in Income and Wealth. She also serves as an advisor to the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 2016, former President Barack Obama appointed Abraham to chair the bipartisan Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking. From 2011-13, she was a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and from 1993-2001, she served as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Abraham earned her Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1982 and a B.S. in economics from Iowa State University in 1976.

“Professor Abraham’s work leads to a better understanding of many critical topics including unemployment,” said Wayne McIntosh, interim dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. “Her research, teaching and public service have been transformative. Our community is proud of this fitting milestone in her career.”

Edward Ott headshot

Ott has spent his career conducting research in areas including the basic theory and applications of nonlinear dynamics, wave chaos, control of chaos, fractal basin boundaries, dynamics of large interconnected networks, chaotic dynamics of fluids, models of brain dynamics and learning, and weather prediction.

Of his NAS election, he said, "I feel greatly honored by this recognition of my work, and also regard this as a recognition of the important role that the general field in which I have mostly worked—nonlinear dynamics and chaos—is now playing in science and technology research.”

He has a joint appointment in the Institute for Research in Electronics & Applied Physics. He joined the University of Maryland in 1979, after more than a decade as a faculty member at Cornell University. He received his B.S. in electrical engineering from The Cooper Union and his M.S. and Ph.D. in electrophysics at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, followed by a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge University.

Ott was nominated as a foreign member of the Academia Europaea in 2020 and is a fellow of the IEEE, American Physical Society, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and World Innovation Foundation. He received the A. James Clark School of Engineering Outstanding Faculty Research Award in 2005.

“We believe the world looks to Maryland Engineering for inspiration and ideas to help solve its challenges. Dr. Ott’s election validates that belief,” said Samuel Graham, Jr., Clark School dean. “Congratulations to Dr. Ott on his achievement. We’re glad to see his work recognized, and feel fortunate our students, faculty and staff will continue to benefit from his knowledge, experience and expertise.”​​

Richard J. Walker headshot

Walker’s research focuses on the origin and evolution of early solar system materials and the geochemical evolution of the Earth. His primary research focus is the study of siderophile, or “iron-loving” elements, which are largely concentrated in planetary cores. He has published more than 200 articles and book chapters, and he has advised and mentored dozens of undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students, and junior faculty members.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Ott and Dr. Walker have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences,” said Amitabh Varshney, dean of UMD’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. “They are world-renowned scholars and leaders in their fields. This honor is richly deserved, and we are proud to have them as colleagues here at Maryland."

Walker joined UMD in 1990 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1993 and to professor in 1998. He served as chair of UMD’s Department of Geology from 2016-21.

“This is a great honor for my group's research being recognized at the national level. It is especially gratifying that the University of Maryland can nurture a small unit, such as the Department of Geology, so as to produce multiple members of the NAS,” he said.

Walker was elected last week to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He previously received UMD’s Kirwan Faculty Research and Scholarship Prize and was the first recipient of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Physical Sciences Board of Visitors Distinguished Faculty Award in 2005. He was awarded the Geochemical Society Clarke Medal in 1990.

Walker is a fellow of the Geochemical Society, European Association of Geochemistry and the American Geophysical Union. He earned his bachelor’s degree in geology from the College of William and Mary and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in geology from State University of New York at Stony Brook. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Oulu University, Finland.



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