Last week, two Yale faculty members — applied physics professor Tso-Ping Ma and School of Management professor Edward Kaplan — were elected to the National Academy of Engineering, a branch of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

The NAE, which advises the federal government and also conducts independent research, lauded Kaplan for his work on needle-exchange programs and for bringing engineering perspectives to the field of public health. The NAE honored Ma for his expansive research with semiconductors.

“It’s humbling and at the same time, it’s fulfilling,” said Kaplan, who is the first SOM professor to be inducted into the NAE. “We go into the sort of work not with the end goal of being recognized. We’re trying to make things better.”

Though Kaplan and Ma’s areas of expertise are quite different, they have both merged varied interests and brought new perspectives to their fields.

Ma, in addition to his research on semiconductors, has published over 180 research papers, contributed to books, and holds a patent. Ma was unavailable for comment yesterday.

“I am happy for Ma — and for Yale — that he was inducted into the NAE,” applied physics professor Sean Barrett said.

Kaplan has used mathematical models and operations research to solve problems in public health.

School of Management Deputy Dean Stanley Gartska said such interplay of different areas of expertise reflects the SOM’s intellectual diversity.

“I don’t think you’ll find someone like [Kaplan] at another management school,” Gartska said. “We have a much broader research agenda than traditional business schools.”

Kaplan, whose current interests have led him to examine bioterrorism from an engineering, rather than political, point of view, said he was pleased his colleagues in the NAE appreciated his work.

“Even though the area in which I work — public policy and health — is very different from what other colleagues are doing, they recognize the value of using [operations research and math sciences] techniques,” he said. “I’ve argued all along that these methods can be used in many different areas. To have these folks validate that is rewarding.”

Looking toward his future involvement in the NAS, Kaplan said in an organization of over 2,000 members, one needs to know where one can best contribute.

“The key here is not to try to have an influence over everything,” he said. “There are specific areas in which I think I could really add value and those are the areas in which I would try to work… I see myself as continuing to be a spokesman for operations research and quantitative science as applied to problem solving in public policy.”

Reflecting on the appointment, Kaplan said he felt honored by the praise from his peers, some of whom were his professors while he was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“This is one of the nicer things that can happen to a professor,” he said.