CU-Boulder faculty member John Wahr elected to National Academy of Sciences

May 1, 2012 •

University of Colorado Boulder Professor John Wahr of the physics department has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a top honor recognizing scientists and engineers for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Wahr, who also is a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, is an expert on theoretical geophysics and on the use of satellite measurements to better understand the planet and its atmosphere. In recent years he has been using NASA’s GRACE satellite system to measure the depletion of water and ice stored in Earth’s glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, soils and aquifers. 

In February Wahr co-led a high-profile study using GRACE to measure mass loss in global glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets during the past decade and the resulting contribution to sea level rise. Wahr also is a leading authority on the study of Earth’s rotation, Earth and ocean tides, and crustal deformation.

There were 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 15 countries elected to the academy in 2012.

“This is one of the highest honors a faculty member can receive, and we are proud to congratulate Professor Wahr,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano.  “He joins a select group of faculty from across the country who have been elected to the prestigious academy and who are relied upon to provide expert advice to our top government leaders on science and technology issues.” 

Wahr is one of 25 CU-Boulder faculty members who have been elected to NAS. He joins seven other CU-Boulder physics faculty previously elected to the academy: Noel Clark, Eric Cornell, Deborah Jin, John Hall, Margaret Murnane, Carl Wieman and Jun Ye.

“It is a great honor to CU-Boulder to have had more than two dozen of our best and brightest faculty members elected to the National Academy of Sciences,” said CU-Boulder Vice Chancellor for Research Stein Sture.  “These awards, combined with our four Nobel Prizes, four National Medal of Science awards and seven MacArthur “Genius Grant” awards over the years help to demonstrate the high caliber of our faculty.”

One other University of Colorado faculty member, Professor Kurt Beam of the physiology and biophysics department at CU’s School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus, was elected to NAS in 2012. In addition, former CU-Boulder planetary scientist Robin Canup of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder also was elected to the academy this year.

Wahr, a Professor of Distinction in the College of Arts and Sciences, joined the CU-Boulder faculty in 1983.  He is an elected fellow of the American Geophysical Union and has published 170 peer-reviewed journal articles in geophysics.

The NAS was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and currently has more than 2,000 active members. NAS members have included such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright and Alexander Graham Bell.

For more information on the National Academy of Sciences visit

John Wahr, 303-492-8349
Jim Scott, CU media relations, 303-492-3114