USC Dornsife chemist named to prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences
USC Dornsife chemist and University Professor Hanna Reisler is renowned as a scientist, scholar and mentor. (Composite: Letty Avila. Image Sources: Courtesy of Hanna Reisler; American Academy of Arts and Sciences; iStock.)

USC Dornsife chemist named to prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences

University Professor Hanna Reisler joins luminaries including civil rights attorney and activist Kimberlé Crenshaw, neurosurgeon and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta and Oprah Winfrey in being elected to the academy’s class of 2021. [2¾ min]
Darrin S. Joy

It began with a fascination with solving puzzles, specifically those related to natural phenomena and exploration of the fundamental physical principles of the universe. Now, her curiosity has resulted in election to one of the most prestigious and diverse groups of scholars and leaders in the country.

University Professor and Professor of Chemistry Hanna Reisler has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS). Founded in 1780, the academy convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas and address pressing national and global issues. Reisler is the 26th faculty member at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences to be elected.

“I consider the election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences a privilege and an honor,” says Reisler, who holds the Lloyd Armstrong, Jr. Chair for Science and Engineering. “I am especially delighted by the breadth of the human experience that it covers.”

Reisler is among good company in this year’s AAAS class, which includes civil rights attorney and advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw, neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas Nathan Hecht, atmospheric scientist Anne Thompson of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and Oprah Winfrey.

Citing the academy’s emphasis on the need for interdisciplinary study that draws on expertise from many fields of research and professional practice, Reisler says she is eager to contribute to the academy’s goal of providing “pragmatic solutions for complex challenges.”

“I like that the academy tackles a broad range of issues that involve impact on society … and that it is also concerned with ethical challenges,” she says.

An internationally recognized chemist, Reisler studies the detailed mechanisms of chemical reactions by using laser and molecular-beam techniques. Her research relates to environmental, atmospheric and combustion chemistry, focusing on chemical reactions that are sparked by light with the goal of understanding them on a fundamental level.

Elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012, Reisler’s research is renowned among her colleagues and peers in the field, as is her talent and initiative as an instructor, mentor and colleague.

Reisler has earned a Provost Excellence in Mentoring Award, a USC Mellon Mentoring Award and a USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Senior Faculty Award. In addition, USC’s Women in Science and Engineering program, which she co-founded in 2000, honored her by creating the Hanna Reisler Mentorship Award in recognition of “the many years she has dedicated to mentoring faculty and especially women at USC.”

Reisler earned her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science in 1972. Following positions at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the Soreq Nuclear Research Center in Israel, she joined USC in 1977 as a senior research associate and became a tenured faculty member in 1987.

Asked how she maintains her enthusiasm for her work after nearly five decades, she provides a robust list of motivations.

“What keeps me going? Excitement about science and discovery; optimism; keeping a sense of humor in difficult times; the excitement of my students and postdocs; the high quality of the people around me; the sense of community in my discipline that shares the same excitement about science; my friends at USC; and last but certainly not least, my family.”