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Medin, Schatz Elected to National Academy of Sciences

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May 3, 2005
Douglas Medin

Douglas Medin

George Schatz

George Schatz

Two Northwestern University faculty members have been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

They are Douglas Medin, professor of psychology, and George C. Schatz, Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry.

The academy is a private, non-profit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters.

Both men in 2002 were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the nation’s most prestigious learned society.

Medin, a 2005 winner of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award by the American Psychological Association, is director of the interdisciplinary Program in Culture, Language and Cognition. His interests are in theories of learning, memory and induction; computational models of cognition; concept and classification learning; and models of similarity, culture and cognition.

Medin's recent focus has been on the role of expertise and culture in the conceptual organization of biological categories. The goal is to understand how the correlational structure of things in the world interacts with theories, goals and belief systems to determine categorization and reasoning. One view is that nature imposes biological categories on the human mind, and that categories are recognized rather than constructed. His work shows that different kinds of expertise in the same domain lead to systematic differences in categorization and reasoning.

An important dimension of this project involves cross-cultural comparison, which has involved studying categorization about biological kinds among different populations in Guatemala and Mexico. Most recently he has been examining the linkages between understanding the natural world and environmental behaviors.

Medin's research is supported by National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation.

Medin has been editor of The Psychology of Learning and Motivation and of Cognitive Psychology, and currently is consulting editor for the latter journal as well as for Cognition and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory.

George C. Schatz conducts theoretical and computational chemistry research in two general areas: nanotechnology and chemical dynamics.

In the nanotechnology area he has developed electrodynamics theories for describing the optical properties of metal nanoparticles of use in chemical and biological sensing, and he has modeled the statistical mechanics of thin film deposition, DNA structures, and the fracture of nanomaterials. Much of the optical property work is concerned with classical electrodynamics, where he has developed new methods for describing light scattering, absorption and nonlinear optical processes, and he has also developed electronic structure theory methods for describing the interaction of light with molecules and nanoparticles.

His studies of chemical dynamics have included molecular dynamics studies of polymer erosion mechanisms important in low earth orbit satellites, and of reactions important in combustion and atmospheric chemistry. Schatz has actively worked on the development of quantum theories of chemical reaction dynamics, especially tunneling and electronically nonadiabatic processes.

Schatz is co-author of three books and author of nearly 400 publications. His research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Defense Research Advanced Projects Agency.

A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society, Schatz has been the recipient of a Max Planck Research Award, the Fresenius Award, and fellowships from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In 2001 he was elected to the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences.

Schatz is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Physical Chemistry.