She is the author of "Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain" and "Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World," as well as more than 160 scientific papers
Born in 1947 in South Bend, Indiana, she completed her doctorate at Harvard University, before teaching at Tufts University in Massachusetts. She spoke frequently at the pontifical academy before being named a member.
Ampersand, the online magazine of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, said that the appointment recognized Wolf's work "in applying science to education, in tandem with Pope Francis' expressed goal of utilizing science to improve the lives of the world's impoverished populations, particularly children."
It added: "Professor Wolf is one of a very few women who are members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and one of only several Academicians directly applying neuroscience to global issues in education."
Wolf's appointment follows the Sept. 29 nomination of Fabiola Gianotti, the first female director-general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), to the pontifical academy.
The pontifical academy traces its roots back to the Academy of the Lynxes (Accademia dei Lincei), one of the world's first exclusively scientific academies, founded in Rome in 1603. The short-lived academy's members included the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei.