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Home > People > Awards and appointments, January 2009

Awards and appointments, January 2009

By Adam Overland

Michael O'connor
Michael O'Connor succeeded Brian Van Ness as head of the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development.

January 28

To submit U of M staff or faculty for consideration in People, contact the Brief editor .


Michael O'Connor, Ordway Chair of Developmental Biology in Genetics, Cell Biology and Development, succeeded Brian Van Ness as head of the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development January 1. O'Connor started at the University of Minnesota in 1997. He has contributed to more than 80 peer-reviewed publications in the fields of developmental biology and molecular genetics over the years. A Howard Hughes Medical Institute Senior Investigator, he researches the molecular genetics of development, focusing on growth-factor signaling and gene regulation. Van Ness, who was the founding head of the department, served in that role nine years. He returns full time to teaching and research.


McKnight Land-Grant Professors for 2009-11 include 11 early career faculty members at UMTC and UMD. The awards provide support to outstanding junior faculty at a critical point in their professional lives and are administered through the Graduate School.

The 2009-11 recipients are

Arindam Banerjee, computer science and engineering: Organizing the world's information, now accessible online, is one of the greatest scientific challenges of the century. Banerjee's research uses large-scale data clustering to do it, impacting everyday users shopping online and driving their cars as well as the global computer science research community. His work is used by organizations from Google to NASA. 

Giancarlo Casale, history: In the early modern age (1500-1800), the Ottoman Empire was highly diverse and the world's most powerful Muslim state. By comparison, Western Europe possessed a clearly defined sense of identity coupled with a driving curiosity about "the other." Casale is investigating the paradox of curiosity and intolerance. 

Ryan Elliott, aerospace engineering and mechanics: "Shape-memory" metals are alloys that can change their shape by temperature, such as shower heads that automatically close to prevent scalding and stents that open when placed in a human artery. In the past, research on these materials has depended on trial and error, but Elliott is developing simulations that expand and accelerate the process of discovery and design. 

Tian He, computer science and engineering: Wireless sensor networks are used in such things as hazard-response systems, indoor climate control, assisted living, bridge-integrity monitoring, and precise agriculture. Most need to work for long periods without wired power. This research has resulted in energy-efficient sensing and energy-management methods already widely applied. 

Alan C. Love, philosophy: As new discoveries are made, concepts from many disciplines are used to explain them. Love looks at biology in particular, from embryo development to evolution, and investigates how reasoning works in order to clarify how we know what we know and to generate new and better resources for decision-making. 

Julian Marshall, civil engineering: For the first time in history, more people live in cities than rural areas. Marshall works on designing cities for human health and the environment, from understanding patterns of urban density and suburban expansion to analyzing policies for ability to reduce the impact of air pollution. 

Steven P. Matthews, history, U of M-Duluth campus: From the viewpoint of the 21st century, it's easy to assume that science and religion have always been at odds. Matthews is using his knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, German, and historical theology to prove they were both essential to the formation in 1660 of the British Royal Society, a leading agent in the scientific revolution. 

Kieran McNulty, anthropology: Last year, McNulty and a New York colleague made news when they identified Indonesian hobbit-like fossils, found in 2003, as an entirely new species in humanity's evolutionary chain. Now he's on to Kenya, where he'll use new methods to reconstruct ancient environments and explore their connection to the sizes and shapes of apes and humans as they developed over 18 million years. 

Jennifer Powers, ecology, evolution, and behavior: Tropical dry forests are some of the most valuable and endangered ecosystems on the planet. Powers tramps through them to gather samples and measurements that are matched with satellite imagery to document regional changes in carbon storage and biodiversity. Forest managers, conservationists, and local communities need her research to make better decisions and guide restoration. 

Martin O. Saar, geology and geophysics: Volcano eruptions, groundwater flows, and underground storage of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas all have two things in common: fluid dynamics and energy transfer. Saar is developing new research methods with the potential to transform geothermal energy production, clean-water security, and approaches to many kinds of environmental disasters. 

Sangwon Suh, bioproducts and biosystems engineering: Industrial ecology sees industrial systems as living organisms that consumes natural resources and discards wastes. Suh studies the metabolism of these systems over time and has found, for example, that a transition from industrial to service economy doesn't automatically reduce pollution. For more information, see the news release or visit McKnight 2009.



U in the News A selection of U faculty in the news 

"Hobbit" Skull Study: Species Not Human 

In a an analysis of the size, shape and asymmetry of the cranium of Homo floresiensis, Karen Baab, a researcher in the Department of Anatomical Scienes at Stony Brook University, and colleagues conclude that the fossil, found in Indonesia in 2003 and known as the "Hobbit," is not human. But Dr. Baab and co-author Kieran McNulty, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, believe their findings counter the microcephaly theory. Newswise.

Diabetes cure might be homegrown 

The descendents of Abraham are ready. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and at the University of Minnesota have been studying the problem for a decade or more, and say now they will be among the first to propose transplanting living pig tissue into humans. Star Tribune.

Nick Coleman: Left or right, red or blue, we all see a need to help the needy 

The ultra-rich are having a hard time. Take it from two professors who study this stuff, including Larry Jacobs, the politics and government guru at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute. Star Tribune.

Warming Trends Alter Conservation 

At the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's Eastern Shore, sea-level rise threatens to drown the brackish marsh on which migrating shorebirds depend. Sandy Andelman, who directs Conservation International's tropical ecology, assessment and monitoring network, University of Minnesota environmental economist Stephen Polasky and colleagues have calculated that it could cost at least $5.8 billion overall to safeguard biodiversity in the humid tropics unless the world slashes its greenhouse-gas emissions quickly. Washington Post.


January 21

Keith Stelter recently received the WCCO Radio Good Neighbor Award
Keith Stelter recently received the WCCO Radio Good Neighbor Award

Keith Stelter, physician and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Mankato Family Medicine Residency Program, recently received the WCCO Radio Good Neighbor Award. WCCO News/Talk 830 AM congratulated Stelter on air and presented him with the Good Neighbor Award certificate. Stelter was nominated for the Good Neighbor Award by the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians Foundation in recognition of his many years of volunteer service to the non-profit organization. For the past six years he has served on the board of directors dedicating his time, energy, and expertise as a family physician to build a strong non-profit organization that serves patients, professionals, and communities across Minnesota. A leader in the profession of family medicine, Stelter has served as president of the board of directors, guiding the foundation's programs, budget, policies, and planning processes. He helped launch the Resident Research Grant Program to encourage family medicine residents to conduct research projects and connect clinic work to practice-based research.

The Office for Equity and Diversity has named Donna Johnson the new director of Disability Services. Johnson began her position on January 5 after a national search for a new director.

A paper co-authored by University of Minnesota professor of Plant Biology and Bell Museum curator of fungi David McLaughlin has been featured in ScienceWatch's "New Hot Papers" section. The study presents a comprehensive classification of the kingdom Fungi. The classification takes into account recent molecular phylogenetic analyses, and includes input from a broad group of fungal taxonomic experts. The paper's lead author, David Hibbett of Clark University, points to the importance of Fungi in human affairs as pathogens, decayers and beneficial symbionts--and progress toward better understanding of the evolutionary history of Fungi as primary reasons for the attention the paper has received. The paper is a product of the Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life project sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Diane Wiese-Bjornstal, associate professor in Kinesiology, has been appointed to the 2009 Science Board of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Executive Director Melissa Johnson wrote, "Dr. Wiese-Bjornstal was selected to serve on this board due to the significant contributions she has made to the research and science of physical activity, fitness, and health. The PCPFS staff and council members look to this board for recommendations in the areas of program development and evaluation."

A memorial service for Roger Page will take place Jan. 25, 2 p.m., at the Weisman Museum. Page served as associate dean in CLA for years and was deeply beloved by students, faculty, and administrators alike. Page was born Aug. 14, 1917, in Richmond, Va. He attended Richmond College (now the University of Richmond) and worked his way through school as a waiter in the dining hall. He received a bachelor's degree with honors in psychology in 1938 and enrolled in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin before transferring to the University of Minnesota in 1939, drawn by the Psychology Department's reputation and renowned faculty. He withdrew from the University during World War II to enlist in the Navy, where he was commissioned as an ensign. He worked in the Naval Air Corps as a psychologist, screening candidates for flight training. At war's end, he returned to the U to finish his doctoral degree in psychology. He didn't leave the U again until he retired as a psychology professor and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts in 1988. For more information, see the Star Tribune.


U in the News A selection of U faculty in the news 

The New Virus Killer 

At first it sounds like a terrible plan, the kind that results in zombies ruling the Earth. Louis Mansky, a virologist at the University of Minnesota, says that risk is minimal. Popular Science.

Hanging 10 (Degrees) on Icy Lake Superior 

Black shapes bobbed on big waves out from shore. He learned the trick from a program director at the University of Minnesota's Duluth campus, which runs a learn-to-surf program each year through the winter. New York Times.

Climatologist Mark Seeley: Eyes on the sky 

What's the coldest day in Minnesota history? Mark Seeley, a University of Minnesota climatologist and longtime St. Paul resident, is a human encyclopedia of such weather facts. Star Tribune.

Report: Ice Age about to freeze out global warming 

Earth is "on the brink of entering another Ice Age" that will last for the next 100,000 years, reports the Russian Pravda Online newspaper, attempting to counter the widespread view that human activity is contributing to an unwanted and dangerous warming of the planet. Erik Brown, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, today characterized the report as telling a "rather sensational story." Star Tribune.

Editorial: UMR offers perks for pioneering students

If you saw "Bridget Jones's Diary" and munched popcorn the last time you were on the top two floors of what used to be the Galleria in downtown Rochester, you owe it to yourself to check out what's replaced the movie theaters. The Post-Bulletin's editorial board did precisely that last week, and after a 20-minute tour of the University of Minnesota-Rochester's new digs, were somewhat awestruck. Rochester Post Bulletin.


January 14

John Sheehan is joining the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment
John Sheehan is joining the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment

Noted biofuels expert John Sheehan is joining the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. As the scientific program coordinator for biofuels and the global environment, Sheehan will pay special attention to the direct and indirect consequences of biofuels production on land use around the world. Sheehan has 25 years of experience in chemical engineering, analysis and planning, including 14 years working with biomass technologies. Most recently, he served as vice president of strategy and sustainable development at LiveFuels Inc., a venture capital-funded startup based in California that focuses on algal fuels technology. Prior to that, Sheehan spent nearly two decades with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, where he conducted pioneering work on system dynamic models for strategic and policy decision-making related to biofuels. During that time, he led the Department of Energy's assessment of its energy efficiency and renewable energy technology portfolio; conducted landmark studies of energy, air quality, greenhouse gas and soil impacts of stover-to-ethanol; oversaw multidisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers; and published numerous peer-reviewed articles on the gamut of energy and environmental topics. Sheehan will work closely with the Institute and two of its signature programs--the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, and the Global Landscapes Initiative--linking research on global land use and biofuels. His work at the Institute will address and inform the global "food versus fuel" debate.

Arthur Hill and Susan Meyer Goldstein are the recipients of the Best Empirical Paper Award and a $1,000 prize from the Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education for their paper "Applying the Collective Causal Mapping Methodology to Operations Management Curriculum Development."

Mark Sellner, director of the Master of Business Taxation program, has been presented the 2007-08 R. Glen Berryman Award by the Minnesota Society of CPAs. This award recognizes outstanding continual professional education instructors for their technical expertise and use of effective teaching methods.

Kathleen Vohs was recently named a McKnight Presidential Fellow at the University of Minnesota. Already a 2007 McKnight Land-Grant Professor, Vohs has earned this prestigious award as a newly tenured faculty member who is recognized by both internal and external reviewers as being in the top tier of international researchers in her field. The fellowship provides three years of research funding. For more about the McKnight's, see McKnight.

Yuqing (Ching) Ren is a co-principal investigator (PI) of a proposal being funded by the National Science Foundation. The title of the project, "Understanding Online Volunteer Communities: Toward Theory-Based Design," is receiving $2.4 million for five years from 2008 to 2013. The project PI is Professor John Riedl in the computer science and engineering (CSE) department, and other co-PIs include Professor Joe Konstan and Associate Professor Loren Terveen in CSE, Professor Mark Snyder in psychology, and Professor Robert Kraut at Carnegie Mellon University.

Ivy Zhang, assistant professor of accounting, recently received the Journal of Accounting and Economics 2007 Best Paper Prize for her paper, "Economic consequences of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002." The Journal of Accounting and Economics is one of the most prestigious and influential academic journals in accounting. The journal editors awarded the prize to the most innovative paper published in 2007 that is likely to have the greatest impact on the profession. Zhang's award-winning paper, which originated in research she began during her Ph.D. program at the University of Rochester's Simon School of Business, examines the economic impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This securities legislation brought about substantive changes in the regulations that businesses must follow and in how firms operate.

Peg Lonnquist has been selected as the Director of the Women's Center. Lonnquist has served as the interim director of the Women's Center since August 2007. Prior to assuming the interim position she served as an Associate Professor in the Master of Arts in Teaching program at Hamline University. In addition, Lonnquist has promoted the development of women with several organizations including Iowa State University's Women's Center, the Iowa Girls Leadership Camp, International Girl Guides and Girls Scouts (Our Cabana in Cuernavaca), the University of Minnesota YWCA, the International Women's Rights Action Watch Project, and Woodswomen.


U in the News A selection of U faculty in the news 

New Thinking on How to Protect the Heart 

If last week's column convinced you that surgery may not be the best way to avoid a heart attack or sudden cardiac death, the next step is finding out what can work as well or better to protect your heart. In the Seven Countries Study started in 1958 and first published in 1970, Dr. Ancel Keys of the University of Minnesota and co-authors found that heart disease was rare in the Mediterranean and Asian regions where vegetables, grains, fruits, beans and fish were the dietary mainstays. New York Times.

Farming Strides Toward Sustainability 

The production of four major crops now requires significantly less land, water, and energy per bushel or bale than it did 20 years ago, marking progress toward sustainable agriculture, according to a new report to be released later today at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. To have a scientific, credible conversation between agribusiness and the environmental community is really great," says Jonathan Foley, a global change scientist at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, who studies the impact of agriculture. Science Now.

W.Va. judicial ethics case draws array of allies 

An unusual alliance between public interest groups, corporate giants and even ex-judges has formed in a U.S. Supreme Court case over the ethics of a West Virginia judge who ruled in favor of a campaign contributor's company. "If you raise the stakes in terms of when judges have to step down, it's going to make it easier for you to then get judges recused," said David Schultz, who also teaches at University of Minnesota's law school. MSNBC.

Cassiopeia A Comes Alive Across Time And Space 

Two new efforts have taken a famous supernova remnant from the static to the dynamic. Lawrence Rudnick of the University of Minnesota led the Spitzer part of the Delaney study. Space Daily.


January 7

br_090107_Stergios Roumeliotis.jpg
Stergios Roumeliotis has been awarded a prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. 

University of Minnesota associate professor of computer science and engineering Stergios Roumeliotis has been awarded a prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award is the nation's highest honor recognizing outstanding early career researchers who show exceptional potential. Roumeliotis was honored Dec. 19 at a White House ceremony for the 67 researchers whose work is deemed of critical importance to the future of the United States. Roumeliotis specializes in inertial navigation of aerial and ground autonomous vehicles, fault detection and identification, and sensor networks. His research could be used in wheeled Mars rovers, tracked vehicles, as well as unmanned helicopters and spacecrafts. The applications of his research span from indoors to outdoors and from autonomous landing to planetary exploration. Winners of the PECASE receive up to five years of funding from their nominating agency to further their research in support of critical government missions. For more information, see the news release.


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has awarded the distinction of Fellow to 486 of its members this year including 7 from the University of Minnesota. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. AAAS Fellows from the University this year include: Bruce Blazar, professor, department of pediatrics: For distinguished contributions to the field of cancer therapy, particularly for development of new approaches to improve the outcome of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation.

Allen Levine was one of 7 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to be awarded the distinction of fellow by AAAS.
Allen Levine was one of 7 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to be awarded the distinction of fellow by AAAS.

Allen Levine, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Sciences and director of the Minnesota Obesity Center: For distinguished scholarly contributions to the fields of nutrition and neuroscience, particularly for neuropeptidergic intake and for leadership in the prevention of obesity. Timothy Lodge, professor, chemistry department and the chemical engineering and materials science department: For distinguished contributions to the field of polymer science, especially in polymer dynamics and in the phase behavior of block copolymers. Michael Sadowsky, professor, department of soil, water and climate: For distinguished contributions to the field of environmental microbiology, with respect to molecular plant-microbe interactions, biodegradation of chlorinated herbicides and determining sources of fecal bacteria. Shashi Shekhar, professor, computer science and engineering department: For distinguished research, service and teaching contributions to advancement of science in the fields of spatial databases, spatial data mining and geographic information science. Deon Stuthman, professor, department of agronomy and plant genetics: For distinguished contributions to the fields of plant breeding and genetics, emphasizing grain quality and disease resistance, with emphasis on both American continents. Susan Wolf, McKnight Presidential Professor of Law, Medicine and Public Policy, Medical School, Law School, Center for Bioethics: For distinguished contributions to the fields of law and science, law and medicine, bioethics and particularly on genomics research and end-of-life care. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal Science. AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals.


Indigenous law scholar John Borrows will join the University of Minnesota Law School faculty in fall 2009 as a professor in the area of international law and human rights. Borrows will be the first to hold one of the new chairs in Law, Public Policy, and Society. The law School's new Program on Law, Public Policy, and Society recently received a $6.01 million grant from the Robina Foundation to pursue its agenda of transforming legal education and research to prepare students to address challenges of the 21st century. For more information on John Borrows, see the news release.

Family Social Science professor Sharon Danes, graduate student Jinhee Lee, and staff member Sayali Amarapurkar were selected by the Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship to receive the John Jack Award for their paper titled "Determinants of Family Business Resilience after a Natural Disaster." The Award is given to the overall best paper presented at the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) Annual Conference dealing with entrepreneurship by women or minorities or under conditions of adversity. As leaders in their fields, the award winners are making an impact on government policy and on the development of small business and entrepreneurship. The USASBE was founded in 1957 in the United States as a comprehensive organization of outstanding researchers, scholars, teachers, administrators, and public policy makers interested in entrepreneurship and small business.

Keith McFarland, administrator and dean at the University of Minnesota for more than 44 years, died December 27. McFarland was in the office of the Director of Resident Instruction in the College of Forestry, Agriculture and Home Economics starting in 1946. He later became acting dean and dean of the College of Home Economics. He went on to return as deputy chancellor of the Waseca campus, and Dean of the General College. McFarland was a Regents Award recipient and a strong supporter of University programs and activities throughout his years. He was 87 at the time of death. A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m., Jan. 9, Centennial Methodist Church, Roseville. Memorials may go to the Keith and MaryEllen McFarland fund, University of Minnesota Foundation, or the American Lung Association.


U in the News A selection of U faculty in the news 

Orfield Discusses Fair Hosing Report on NPR 

Myron Orfield, the University of Minnesota Law School's Julius E. Davis Professor of Law and Executive Director of the Institute on Race & Poverty, appeared on National Public Radio's Tell Me More segment on Dec. 9 in a program entitled "Housing Discrimination Leading to Foreclosures?" The program featured Orfield and Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, discussing findings, implications, and recommendations of the newly issued report of the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. For more information, see Orfield.

'Hobbit' Fossils Represent A New Species, Concludes Anthropologist 

University of Minnesota anthropology professor Kieran McNulty (along with colleague Karen Baab of Stony Brook University in New York) has made an important contribution toward solving one of the greatest paleoanthropological mysteries in recent history--that fossilized skeletons resembling a mythical "hobbit" creature represent an entirely new species in humanity's evolutionary chain. Science Daily .

Bob Bruininks: Executive of the Year 

The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal named President Bruininks its 2008 Executive of the Year.