Sultan Elected to Connecticut’s Academy of Science and Engineering

Sonia Sultan

Sonia Sultan, chair and professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, has been elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. Sultan, an evolutionary biologist, joins 39 other Connecticut experts in science, engineering and technology to membership in the Academy this year. Four other Wesleyan faculty are already members of the Academy.

Election to the Academy, according to the CASE web site, is based on scientific and engineering distinction achieved through significant contributions in theory or applications, as demonstrated by original published books and papers, patents, the pioneering of new and developing fields and innovative products, outstanding leadership of nationally recognized technical teams, and external professional awards in recognition of scientific and engineering excellence.

“I am certainly honored to have been elected, and to become part of an organization that includes researchers I admire very deeply, such as Wesleyan’s Laura Grabel, Michael Donoghue at Yale (a major plant evolutionary biologist), and Robin Chazdon at the University of Connecticut (a distinguished tropical ecologist who was also elected this year),” she says.

The Sultan Lab’s recent work has addressed several timely aspects of plant evolutionary ecology, including the potential for rapid evolution in populations of invasive plants, physiological responses to elevated carbon dioxide and other aspects of predicted future environments, and the inherited effects of environmental stress such as drought on plant development in subsequent generations.

New papers from the Sultan research group have been recently accepted for publication in Ecology and Evolution, Evolutionary Applications, Integrative and Comparative Biology and Frontiers in Plant Genetics and Genomics. Sultan also received a prestigious fellowship from the Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study) of Berlin, where she will be spending the 2012-13 academic year. There, she will be working on a book project that is under contract with Oxford University Press for its Ecology and Evolution series.

At Wesleyan, Sultan teaches classes on plant form and diversity, evolution, and ecology, including a recently developed course on “Evolution in Human-Altered Environments” and an advanced seminar on “Nature and Nurture.”  She is an expert on evolutionary ecology of plants, ecological developmental biology and evolutionary theory.

As a member of the Academy, she may consult with the State of Connecticut on matters regarding science and science education policies. Sultan hopes to defeat attempts to degrade Connecticut school curricula by introducing religion (e.g., “intelligent design”) and politics (denial of climate change) in place of verifiable, natural science approaches and findings.

“As the crisis of climate change becomes ever more apparent in seasonal disruptions and extreme weather events, it is particularly important to defeat the anti-science culture of current ‘conservative’ politics,” she explains.

The Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering was chartered by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1976 to provide expert guidance on science and technology to the people and to the state of Connecticut, and to promote the application of science and technology to human welfare and economic well being.

Other CASE members from Wesleyan include Albert Fry, the E.B. Nye Professor of Chemistry; Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science in Society, professor of biology; Anthony Infante, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, emeritus; and Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies.

Emeritus CASE members from Wesleyan include Lewis Lukens, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, emeritus; Jelle de Boer, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, emeritus; and Robert Rosenbaum, the University Professor of Sciences and Mathematics, emeritus, and chair of PIMMS.

Sultan and the other newly elected CASE members will be introduced at the Academy’s 37th Annual Meeting and Dinner on May 31 at the University of Connecticut’s Rome Ballroom in Storrs.