Sessler Elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

April 28, 2022 • by Christine Sinatra

Jonathan Sessler of UT Austin joins 22 others on the College of Natural Sciences faculty who have been elected to the American Academy.

Jonathan Sessler, in suit and tie, smiles and stands before white board with notes

Jonathan Sessler, a professor of chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin, has been elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The Academy has been electing and engaging a cross-section of highly talented and brilliant individuals for more than 240 years.

Sessler, who holds the R. P. Doherty, Jr. – Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry, designs chemical molecules for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes, and his work has resulted in the creation of multiple biotechnology companies and inventions. In particular, his work with chemical compounds draws on supramolecular chemistry and porphyrins, chemicals found in the human body. His research has led to a class of experimental drugs called texaphyrins, which can target cancerous tumors. Sessler holds the Doherty-Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry and has received numerous honors and awards in his 38 years as a member of the faculty at UT Austin. He has published hundreds of papers, patented dozens of technologies in drug development and received research grants from the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the National Science Foundation and the Welch Foundation, among others. Sessler was elected last year to the National Academy of Sciences and in 2015 to the National Academy of Inventors.

Since the American Academy of Arts & Sciences' founding in 1780, it has elected such distinguished researchers and scientists as Benjamin Franklin (elected 1781), Charles Darwin (1874), Albert Einstein (1924), Stephen Hawking (1984) and Jennifer Doudna (2003). 

"We are celebrating a depth of achievements in a breadth of areas," David Oxtoby, the American Academy's president, said in an announcement Thursday. "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."

Sessler joins 22 others on the College of Natural Sciences faculty who have been elected to the American Academy. A complete list of 2022 new members is available on the Academy's website. 

UT Austin anthropology faculty member Anthony di Fiore also was also elected as a new member in 2022, along with 260 other notable individuals in academia, the arts, industry, public policy and research, each recognized for their leadership and accomplishments on the international stage. The Academy not only recognizes leaders from across disciplines, professions, and perspectives but also convenes them to address significant challenges in society.

"This is a huge honor, and I am grateful," Sessler said. "I've always admired the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for the diversity of human expression it honors and represents. Likely I was elected for contributions to chemistry, but as an amateur linguist and a humanist at heart I can't wait to meet with, and learn from, my fellow members. These same sentiments make me proud to be a professor at UT Austin. Our faculty likewise represent so much excellence and scholarship that sometimes I envy our students for all the educational opportunities with which they are faced."