Two University of Chicago scientists elected to Royal Society

Profs. Wendy Freedman and Matthew Stephens join fellowship for eminent scientists

Two scientists with the University of Chicago have been elected to the Royal Society, a fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists and the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.

Wendy Freedman, the John and Marion Sullivan University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Matthew Stephens, the Ralph W. Gerard Professor of Statistics and Human Genetics, join 57 scientists from around the world to be elected fellows or foreign members of the Royal Society for their outstanding contributions to science.

“These individuals have pushed forward the boundaries of their respective fields and had a beneficial influence on the world beyond,” said Sir Adrian Smith, president of the Royal Society, in a statement.

“Prof. Wendy Freedman has transformed our understanding of the expansion of the universe, and Prof. Matthew Stephens has laid the analytical and methodological foundations of a revolution of human genomic research,” said Angela Olinto, dean of the Physical Sciences Division at the University of Chicago. “We are thrilled that the Royal Society has recognized their invaluable contributions to their fields.”

Wendy Freedman is an observational cosmologist renowned for her research on the Hubble Constant—the rate at which the universe is expanding over time. Two decades ago, she led a team of 30 astronomers who carried out the Hubble Key Project to measure the current expansion rate of the universe, resolving a longstanding debate regarding previously wide-ranging estimates. Freedman served as the founding chair of the board of directors from 2003 to 2015 for the Giant Magellan Telescope.

Presently, her interest is directed at increasing the accuracy of measurements of the expansion rate using the James Webb Space Telescope and testing whether there is new fundamental early-universe physics missing from the current standard model of cosmology.

She is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Physical Society. Her honors also include the Gruber Cosmology Prize.

Matthew Stephens is a statistician and data scientist who has made groundbreaking contributions to the practice and applications of statistics in genetics. His research focuses on developing tractable approximations to complex inferential problems, combining innovative probabilistic models and computational methodology. His contributions have generated breakthroughs in analysis of population structure, statistical haplotype phasing, genotype imputation, multiple testing and Bayesian fine-mapping, which have enabled the discovery and characterisation of many thousands of genetic loci that influence human biology. Software implementing his methods is widely used, including by many large-scale international projects.

Stephens is the chair of the Department of Statistics at the University of Chicago. His honors include the Guy Medal in Bronze from the Royal Statistical Society, the Medallion Lecturer award from the Institute for Mathematical Statistics and inclusion in the Thomson-Reuters list of Highly Cited Researchers.

Adapted from an article published by the UChicago Physical Science Division.