Rutgers professor joins former First Lady Michelle Obama and author Jonathan Franzen

David Vanderbilt, Board of Governors Professor of Physics at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
Photo: Courtesy of David Vanderbilt


David Vanderbilt, Board of Governors Professor of Physics at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Vanderbilt joins more than 200 people elected to the academy this year as a result of their achievements in academia, business, government and public affairs. The 239th class of new members include poet and foundation president Elizabeth Alexander, artist Mark Bradford, gender theorist Judith Butler, academic leader and former Governor Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., author Jonathan Franzen and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

The academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. The academy’s dual mission remains essentially the same today, with honorees from increasingly diverse fields and whose work focuses on the arts, democracy, education, global affairs and science.

Vanderbilt is a member of the Condensed Matter Theory research group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Swarthmore College in 1976 and his doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981. He spent three years as a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley before joining the faculty of the physics department at Harvard University in 1984. He joined Rutgers as a physics professor in 1991 and was named Board of Governors Professor of Physics in 2009.

Vanderbilt is a leader in the development of computational methods for predicting the properties of materials, starting from the fundamental equations governing electrons in a crystalline solid. The computer algorithms he has developed are currently in use by a great many researchers around the world. He has contributed especially to our current understanding of materials that transform electrical impulses into acoustic or magnetic responses, and vice versa.

Vanderbilt has published more than 300 articles in scientific journals. He became a fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) in 1995, won the 2006 Rahman Prize in Computational Physics from the APS and chaired the APS Division of Materials Physics in 2006. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2013 and was awarded a Simons Fellowship in Theoretical Physics in 2014.

The newly elected academy members include 42 international honorary members from 23 countries. They will be inducted at a ceremony in October in Cambridge, Massachusetts, joining members including Benjamin Franklin (1781), Alexander Hamilton (1791), Ralph Waldo Emerson (1864), Maria Mitchell (1848), Charles Darwin (1874), Albert Einstein (1924), Robert Frost (1931), Margaret Mead (1948), Rutgers distinguished alumnus Milton Friedman (1959), Martin Luther King Jr. (1966), Antonin Scalia (2003), Michael Bloomberg (2007), John Lithgow (2010), Judy Woodruff (2012) and Bryan Stevenson (2014).