John Tully and Richard Aslin honored with 2020 NAS awards

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has honored chemist John C. Tully and psychologist Richard N. Aslin, both of Yale, with 2020 awards for scientific achievement. The academy announced honors for 15 scientists Jan. 22 in a range of fields spanning the physical, biological, and medical sciences.

Tully received the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences and Aslin received one of two Atkinson Prizes in Psychological and Cognitive Sciences.

John C. Tully

John C. Tully

Tully is a Sterling Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and professor of physics and applied physics. He earned his B.S. degree at Yale in 1964, led groundbreaking research at Bell Laboratories for a quarter-century, and joined the Yale faculty in 1996. He is known for the development of surface hopping, a technique for including quantum mechanical effects in simulations of molecular dynamics.

In announcing the award, NAS cited Tully’s “pioneering contributions to our understanding of the rates and pathways of chemical processes in gas phase, condensed phase, and surfaces through insightful analyses and creation of computational tools such as surface hopping, which is the standard starting point for simulating molecular motion evolving on multiple potential energy surfaces.”

I am so pleased to see John’s work honored in this way,” said Department of Chemistry chair Kurt Zilm. “His scholarship and leadership in theoretical chemistry led to the renaissance of Yale chemistry as one of the foremost theoretical chemistry departments in the world. John is a legend for his ability to bring high-level theory to bear on real-world experimental chemistry.”

The award, to be presented April 26 at the academy’s annual meeting, comes with a bronze medal and a $15,000 prize. The award was first presented in 1979, to two-time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling.

This was a wonderful surprise,” Tully said of the honor. “It is humbling for my name to be included with this list of distinguished prior award winners.”

Richard N. Aslin

Richard N. Aslin

Aslin is a senior research scientist at Haskins Laboratories and a faculty member of the Yale Department of Psychology and the Yale Child Study Center. He joined the Yale faculty in 2017 after more than two decades at the University of Rochester.

In its citation, the academy highlighted Aslin’s “groundbreaking contributions to understanding infant learning and development.”

Aslin’s research focuses on the implicit learning mechanisms of infants known as “statistical learning.” These learning mechanisms range from word segmentation from fluent speech to musical tones, phonetic categories, sequences of visual shapes, sequences of motor responses, and combinations of objects in complex visual scenes.

We are so pleased that our colleague Dick Aslin is being honored with the Atkinson Prize,” said Tyrone Cannon, the Clark L. Hull Professor and chair of the Department of Psychology. “His work on statistical learning and language development has been of enormous impact in the field.”

As part of the NAS honor, Aslin will receive a $100,000 prize.

It was both wonderful and surprising to be informed of this honor from the National Academy,” Aslin said. “I am immensely grateful to my many talented students, postdocs, and colleagues who contributed to this work. I am also grateful to Haskins Laboratories and Yale University for providing me with a welcome home for my ongoing research.”

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Fred Mamoun: fred.mamoun@yale.edu, 203-436-2643