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Three UC San Diego Faculty Members Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Arshad B. Desai, Karen Oegema and Ana Celia Zentella will join the Academy’s class of 2022

Three members of the UC San Diego community, including an ethnic studies professor eremita and two professors of cellular and molecular medicine, have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest and most esteemed honorary societies in the nation.

Arshad B. Desai, Karen Oegema and Ana Celia Zentella are among the Academy’s 2022 class of 261 new members. They join many fellow Tritons—including 2021 inductees Ananda Goldrath, Eileen Myles and Stefan Savage—along with a legion of artists, scientists, scholars, leaders and change agents representing diverse fields across the public and private sectors.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has honored exceptionally accomplished individuals and engaged them in advancing the public good for more than 240 years. Oceanographer Walter Munk was the first UC San Diego faculty member elected to the Academy. Since then, more than 80 faculty from disciplines that span the entire campus have received this prestigious honor.

“UC San Diego faculty are often recognized nationally for their exceptional teaching, innovative research and societal impact,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “I am proud to see the career accomplishments of these three professors recognized on such a distinguished national platform, alongside their peers and other leading experts across the country.”

“We are celebrating a depth of achievements in a breadth of areas,” David Oxtoby, President of the American Academy, said in a statement. “These individuals excel in ways that excite us and inspire us at a time when recognizing excellence, commending expertise and working toward the common good is absolutely essential to realizing a better future.”

Here is some further information on each of the Academy’s newest members from UC San Diego.

Arshad B. Desai.

Arshad B. Desai, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and School of Biological Sciences. He is also a member of Moores Cancer Center, UC San Diego’s NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Desai joined the faculty in 2002 and now leads the Laboratory of Chromosome Biology in the San Diego branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. His lab conducts fundamental research on microtubule, centromere and chromosome biology. He is also interested in how cells ensure proper transmission of the genome during division, and how errors in genome inheritance arise in the context of cancer.


Karen Oegema.

Karen Oegema, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and School of Biological Sciences. She is also a member of Moores Cancer Center, UC San Diego’s NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Oegema joined the faculty in 2002 and now leads the Laboratory of Mitotic Mechanisms in the San Diego branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. Her lab explores the interface between cell and cancer biology through dissecting the molecular machinery of cell division. She is currently investigating how mitotic processes can be leveraged for new chemotherapeutic strategies. Oegema is also a pioneer in imaging and screening tools used to map the genetics of embryonic development.


Ana Celia Zentella.

Ana Celia Zentella, a professor emerita in the UC San Diego Department of Ethnic Studies/School of Social Sciences, is one of the world’s leading researchers on multilingualism, linguistic diversity and language intolerance, taking an approach she has named “anthro-political linguistics.” She is a central figure in the study of U.S. Latinu (a term she prefers and for which she advocates) varieties of Spanish and English, Spanglish, as well as language socialization in Latinu families. A respected critic of the linguistic profiling facilitated by English-only laws and anti-bilingual education legislation, she is the winner of multiple awards, including in 2014 being named by the Latin American Studies Association/Latino Studies section as “Public Intellectual of the Year.”

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. The 2021 members join the company of those elected before them, including Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton in the eighteenth century; Ralph Waldo Emerson and Maria Mitchell in the nineteenth; Robert Frost, Martha Graham, Margaret Mead, Milton Friedman and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the twentieth; and more recently Joan C. Baez, Judy Woodruff, John Lithgow, and Bryan Stevenson. International Honorary Members include Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Laurence Olivier, Mary Leakey, John Maynard Keynes, Akira Kurosawa and Nelson Mandela.

A complete list of newly elected members of the Academy of Arts & Sciences is now available.