Election to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a scientist in the United States, and it is a mark of recognition for exceptional scientific achievement. This achievement has now been bestowed on JILA and NIST Fellow, along with the University of Colorado Boulder physics professor Ana Maria Rey, as she was inducted into the NAS in 2023. "It is such a huge honor for me," Rey said. "I am so very grateful for this nomination. Nevertheless, I feel that it is not just recognition to me but to JILA, NIST, my fantastic colleagues and collaborators, and my group's amazing students and postdocs. Thanks to their support and amazing work, we have accomplished all the developments this nomination recognizes. I am so very grateful."
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is one of the most prestigious scientific organizations in the world. Members of the NAS are elected by their peers based on their outstanding contributions to their respective fields. Rey's colleague Jun Ye, a JILA and NIST Fellow, nominated her. The NAS election is rigorous and competitive, with only a small percentage of nominated scientists selected for membership. As a result, being elected to the NAS is a validation of one's scientific work and a testament to the quality of one's research.
Rey received the news of her election as an exciting text message. "On May 2nd, I received a text message from Steve Girvin around 11:15 am," she explained. "He is a NAS member and said, 'Congratulations on your selection as a NAS member.' Then around 11:20 am, I received a phone call from David Vanderbilt, the Chair of the NAS Applied Physical Sciences Section, that elected me. He congratulated me over the phone and told me he would update me later about the next steps. I then received a phone call from Jun. Such an exciting day!"
Though that day was full of research for Rey, she and her colleagues still found time to celebrate her election. "That day, we had at 2 pm a talk from Igor Pikosvki, and very kindly, Jun announced the nomination at the beginning of the talk," Rey elaborated. "After the talk, we headed to the airport since we had to fly to D.C. to recompete our PFC award." Rey is one of the leading scientists for JILA's Physics Frontier Center (an NSF research center), so she was called to Washington, D.C., for a grant meeting. "At the airport, we had a 'toast' (with coffee) with Jun, Cindy, and Misha Lukin," she continued. "The day after [the election', we had a very nice dinner in DC with the PFC executive committee."
Rey plans to continue her celebration with her close family and friends. She explained, "I am going to see my Mom later in May, and we are planning to celebrate with her."
In addition to the recognition of scientific excellence, membership in the National Academy of Sciences comes with a number of benefits. For example, members of the NAS can participate in a wide range of scientific activities, including meetings, symposia, and other events. These activities allow members to interact with other scientists, exchange ideas, and collaborate on new research projects. Additionally, membership in the NAS can provide access to funding opportunities and other resources to help advance one's research program.
Membership in the National Academy of Sciences is also important because it allows scientists to have a voice in shaping the future of their field. Through the NAS, members can engage in discussions about the direction of scientific research and the policies that govern it. By participating in these discussions, NAS members can help ensure that the scientific community remains focused on the most important research questions and that resources are directed toward the most promising avenues of inquiry. This is one of the benefits that Rey is especially looking forward to. "I am very excited to attend next year's meeting in late April, where I will meet many of the amazing scientists that are part of [the NAS]," Rey stated. "It will be fun to be part of some of the panels and committees that can help us decide the most exciting research avenues in AMO and quantum science."
Written by Kenna Hughes-Castleberry