Two professors from The University of New Mexico, including Hua Guo and Wirt Wills, were elected recently by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to the newest class of AAAS Fellows.

The 2021 class of AAAS Fellows includes 564 scientists, engineers, and innovators from around the world spanning 25 scientific disciplines. The new class hails from academic institutions, laboratories, hospitals and medical centers, museums, global corporations, nonprofit organizations, institutes, and government agencies.

These honorees have gone above and beyond in their respective disciplines. They bring a broad diversity of perspectives, innovation, curiosity, and passion that will help sustain the scientific field today and into the future. Many of these individuals have broken barriers to achieve successes in their given disciplines. 

Hua Guo

Distinguished Professor Hua Guo (Chemistry section)
Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Hua Guo is a theoretical and computational chemist in the UNM Department of Chemistry. Guo was elected AAAS Fellow for his "distinguished contributions to the field of computational and theoretical chemistry, particularly for theoretical modeling and predictions of chemical reaction dynamics." Using various theoretical tools, Guo research group investigates the mechanisms and dynamics of surface reactions related to heterogeneous catalysis, particularly those involved in energy conversion.

His research group is interested in these studies of electronic and vibrational spectra and reaction dynamics of polyatomic molecular systems. These molecular systems are prevalent in gaseous environments such as interstellar clouds, atmospheres, and in combustion. Guo’s group develops and applies quantum mechanical solutions to understand these fundamental processes.

Guo’s research group is actively studying surface reactions and is currently playing a key role in NASA’s Advanced Computational Center for Entry System Simulation, a five-year, $15 million multi-partner collaboration to better understand the chemistry in thermal protection systems in entry vehicles. As a spacecraft enters an atmosphere of a planet such as Earth or Mars, collisions with the atmospheric atoms and molecules generate very high temperature in the leading edge of the entry vehicle. To protect from the extreme heat, it is necessary to cover the vehicle with a thermal protection system, which consists of lightweight tiles that resist heat.

Guo has been at UNM since 1998. In 2001 he became a full professor and earned the rank of Distinguished Professor in 2015. He also has a professor appointment in Physics and Astronomy since 2010. He received the UNM College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Excellence Award in 2014. He was previously elected Fellow of the American Physical Society (2013) and has been a member of both the American Chemical Society and the American Physical Society since 1989.

Wirt Wills

Professor Chip Wills (Anthropology section)
Wills was nominated and elected by AAAS Fellows for his "distinguished contributions to the field of archaeology and human land use in arid environments."

“It is certainly gratifying to be recognized by other scientists and researchers,” Wills said. “I think all researchers hope that their work will be valuable to their peers and students. The AAAS exists to promote scientific understanding and knowledge about the world we live in, so I'm pleased that my work has been considered important by the Fellows.”

Wills is known for his work at Chaco Canyon – the home of Ancestral Puebloan people who lived there between 850 and 1250 A.D. – conducting field investigations at Pueblo Bonito since 2004 with more than $1 million in external funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Geographic Society. 

The Chaco projects always involve UNM undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom helped prepare publications, including a book and more than 10 peer-reviewed articles to date.

“It has been an incredible privilege to be at UNM for most of my career and work in New Mexico,” Wills reflected. “At UNM I have had some wonderful faculty mentors and the opportunity to co-teach with terrific colleagues outside my department. I think the AAAS recognition is a reflection of the value that UNM places on interdisciplinary research and for creating space in which scholars in different fields can work together across academic boundaries. The AAAS recognition is an honor that I happily share with my students at UNM who have contributed so much to our collaborative research over the years.”

The full list of 2021 AAAS Fellows can be found here.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science family of journals. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals.

For additional information about AAAS, visit

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