Rice’s Richards-Kortum elected to American Philosophical Society

Global health pioneer joins former President Obama and 30 other new members

Rice University bioengineer and global health pioneer Rebecca Richards-Kortum has been elected a member of the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States.

The society has 1,019 living members and has elected only 5,605 members since its founding by Benjamin Franklin in 1743. Members represent all fields of science, humanities and the arts. Other notable members include George Washington, Louis Pasteur, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

The society announced 32 newly elected members this week, including former President Barack Obama and Kenyan paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey. Richards-Kortum is one of five newly elected members in the mathematical and physical sciences.

Rebecca Richards-Kortum

Rebecca Richards-Kortum

Richards-Kortum is Rice’s Malcolm Gillis University Professor, director of Rice 360° Institute for Global Health, professor of bioengineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering. She has been a member of Rice’s faculty since 2005.

“This was a huge and wonderful surprise,” Richards-Kortum said. “I feel so fortunate to have all the great support at Rice that made this possible.”

In March, Fortune magazine named Richards-Kortum to its prestigious list of World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. In September, she became the first Houston scientist, the first Houston woman and the first Rice faculty member to win a coveted “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. In February, the foundation named her team a semifinalist for its 100&Change $100 million grant competition for its plan to end preventable newborn deaths in Africa within 10 years. She and her team plan to develop and implement Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies, or NEST, an integrated group of lifesaving neonatal technologies that could prevent 85 percent of the newborn deaths in Africa.

Richards-Kortum’s laboratory specializes in translating research in nanotechnology, molecular imaging and microfabrication to develop optical systems that are inexpensive, portable and capable of providing point-of-care diagnoses for diseases ranging from cancer to malaria. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Optical Society of America and the National Academy of Inventors.

For more information about the American Philosophical Society, visit www.amphilsoc.org.

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.