Divinity School professor John Collins, School of Medicine professor Gerald Shulman and cell biology professor Haifan Lin were named members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences class of 2018, joining the likes of former President Barack Obama, Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor LAW ’79.

The oldest learning society in the United States, the Academy of Arts and Sciences honors exceptional scholars, leaders, artists and innovators across the country. The Academy announced the names of this year’s 213 new members last week.

“I had no idea it was coming. It is an honor, of course, and I am touched,” Collins said. “I know a lot of colleagues who are members, including our own [Sterling Professor of Divinity and former Dean of the Divinity School] Harry Attridge. It is good to be in their company.”

Collins, who specializes in Old Testament criticism and interpretation, is “one of the few remaining true giants in the world of biblical studies” and the most prominent scholar in several areas of research, including the Book of Daniel, apocalyptic literature and the Dead Sea Scrolls, according to Divinity School professor of Hebrew Bible Joel Baden ’99. In total, Collins has published and edited over 300 scholarly works, including more than 20 books.

But in spite of his prominence within the field of biblical studies, Collins is “quite possibly the most wonderful colleague imaginable,” Baden said. He praised Collin’s sense of humor and generosity, noting that he often reads, advises and promotes the work of fellow Divinity School faculty members.

“There is really no one else like him in biblical studies, and I doubt that there ever will be again,” Baden said.

A professor of medicine who specializes in endocrinology, Shulman serves as co-director of the Yale Diabetes Research Center and Director of the Yale Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center at the School of Medicine. According to his colleague, professor of medicine and clinical director of the endocrinology section Silvio Inzucchi, Shulman is one of the world’s leading diabetes researchers. His lab has been at the forefront of clinical research into how and why Type 2 diabetes develops and how it might be both prevented and treated.

Shulman, who has authored or co-authored more than 400 peer-reviewed publications, was the first to use magnetic resonance spectroscopy to noninvasively examine intracellular glucose and fat metabolism in humans, which helped him conduct pivotal studies on the cellular mechanisms of insulin resistance.

“[Shulman] taught me to always consider the nature of a patient’s diabetes — why did they develop it? What are the underlying predispositions? The answers are not always straightforward, and sometimes new understandings about a patient evolve from that very simple question,” Inzucchi said. “It is an honor to have Jerry as a colleague in the Section of Endocrinology, where he has made such legendary contributions to the field.”

Also a professor at the medical school, and founding director of Yale’s Stem Cell Center, Lin researches stem cell self-renewal — the process by which stem cells divide to make more stem cells — as well as germline development and stem cell–related cancers, using fruit fly germline stem cells, mouse germline and embryonic stem cells, human embryonic stem cells, Hydra and flatworm stem cells as models.

Lin’s research has helped demonstrate stem cell asymmetric division, and his discovery of a novel class of noncoding small RNAs called PIWI-interacting RNAs, or piRNAs, was hailed by the Science Magazine as one of the “Ten Scientific Breakthroughs in 2006.” Through his work, Lin has made significant contributions to identifying novel pathways that regulate transposon silencing, an important defense mechanism of human germ lines, and helped define the machinery and the molecular mechanisms that mediate this process.

“[Membership to the Academy] is a great honor and an example for all our colleagues of how to combine a tremendous collegiality with dedication to our community and important scientific achievements that uncover the basic mechanisms of the biology of germ cells,” said Lin’s colleague, Antonio Giraldez, a professor of genetics at the School of Medicine.

Seven Yale faculty members were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016, and five were elected in 2017.

Adelaide Feibel | adelaide.feibel@yale.edu