Faculty Members Named to Professorships and Endowed Chairs

November 6, 2020 • by Staff Writer

Several College of Natural Sciences faculty members have been newly appointed to special professorships and endowed chairs at The University of Texas at Austin.

Seal of the University of Texas at Austin with a burnt orange filter on the image

Several College of Natural Sciences faculty members have been newly appointed to special professorships and endowed chairs at The University of Texas at Austin. These world-class researchers and excellent teachers are helping to shape the future of their fields in a variety of ways.

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Karen Fingerman

Sonia Wolf Wilson Regents Administrative Professorship in Human Ecology

Karen Fingerman is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences and School of Human Ecology. Her research focuses on adult development, and she has published widely on a number of subjects, from aging and longevity to the psychological rewards that come out of social ties. Fingerman is Founding Director of the Texas Aging & Longevity Center and Director of Research at the newly established Center on Aging & Population Sciences. She is an elected fellow of the American Psychological Association and has won numerous teaching awards including a Faculty Teaching Award from the UT Natural Sciences Council, a CNS Teaching Excellence Award and the Distinguished Mentor Award for behavioral and social sciences from the Gerontological Society of America.

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James Fleet

Margaret McKean Love Chair in Nutrition, Cellular and Molecular Sciences

Fleet joins the UT Austin faculty after 20 years as a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University. His lab uses genomic and genetic approaches to study the role of vitamin D in calcium and bone metabolism and in the prevention, progression and treatment of cancer. He is a long-time member of the American Association of Cancer Research, the American Gastroenterological Association, and the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR). His work has been funded by grants from the NIH and various foundations since 1997. Among the honors he's received are the Mead-Johnson Young Investigators Award from the American Society for Nutrition in 2001, a Distinguished Professorship from Purdue University in 2012, and being named a fellow of the ASBMR in 2019.

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Rasika Harshey

Lorene Morrow Kelley Professorship in Microbiology

Microbiologist Rasika Harshey studies how mobile genetic elements move, and is using knowledge of this mechanism, gleaned from studying a mobile virus, to understand how the genome of its host bacterium is organized. This research has recently advanced a new view of the structure and dynamic properties of the E. coli genome. Harshey also researches flagella, the sensory "outboard motors" that allow bacteria to move according to their surroundings. This knowledge has led to understanding how bacteria sense and respond to life on a surface, compared to their well-studied behaviors in liquid. One of her recent studies discovered how some dying bacteria warn their brethren to prepare defenses against nearby antibiotics. Harshey started at The University of Texas at Austin as an assistant professor in 1990 and became a full professor in 1995. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2007.

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Jon Huibregtse

Benjamin Clayton Centennial Professorship in Biochemistry

Jon Huibregtse researches ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation, where findings have implications in cancer, protein-folding diseases and cellular aging. Huibregste also investigates human innate immune responses to bacterial and viral infections and is currently actively researching strategies to fight COVID-19. Huibregste started at UT Austin in 2000 as an assistant professor and became a full professor in 2007. He is the former chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences and served as the director of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology before stepping down this year. He received a College of Natural Sciences Teaching Excellence Award in 2004. 

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Jason McLellan

Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry

Jason McLellan is a structural biologist and associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences who specializes in understanding the structure and function of viral proteins, including those of coronaviruses. His research focuses on applying structural information to the rational design of vaccines and other therapies for viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. McLellan and his team collaborated with researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Vaccine Research Center to design a stabilized version of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which forms the basis of at least four vaccines currently in human trials. His earlier studies of the MERS, SARS and RSV viruses gave him and his colleagues key insights that allowed them to move quickly in the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. 

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Shelley Payne

Marie Betzner Morrow Centennial Chair

Shelley Payne researches how the bacteria that cause dysentery and cholera (Shigella flexneri and Vibrio cholerae respectivelyinside the human body survive and proliferate. Part of Payne's work found that critical to their survival are genes that code for iron transport systems, metabolic pathways and cell surface proteins. She also loves teaching and is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor, as well as a recipient of the Regents Teaching Excellence Award. Payne joined UT Austin in 1980 and is now a professor of molecular biosciences and medical education, and she is advisor to the dean on diversity and inclusion. Her service to the college and her field has been recognized repeatedly including with a Natural Sciences Council Faculty Service Award, a University of Texas Civitatis Award and a Graduate Microbiology Teaching Award from the American Society for Microbiology. 

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Deirdre Shoemaker

Professorship in Physics #1

Deirdre Shoemaker joined the Department of Physics earlier this year and she leads UT Austin's new Center for Gravitational Physics. Shoemaker conducts research on gravitational waves and computational astrophysics; for example, by using Einstein's equations for the collision of two black holes, she and her team predict what signals from these distant events might be detected on Earth. She is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and NASA's LISA Study Team, and she was part of the team that analyzed the first-ever detection of gravitational waves. Shoemaker previously won an NSF CAREER award and is a fellow of the American Physical Society. She received her Ph.D. in Physics from UT Austin and was previously a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology and director of its Center for Relativistic Astrophysics.

Other Faculty Recently Awarded Chairs and Professorships:

In addition to the above faculty who were newly appointed to named chairs or professorships for the 20-21 academic year, several additional faculty members have received similar recognition in the last two years:

Scott Aaronson, David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professorship in Computer Sciences No. 2

Jennifer Brodbelt, Rowland Pettit Centennial Chair in Chemistry

Volker Bromm, Josey Centennial Professorship in Astronomy

Katherine Freese, Jeff and Gail Kodosky Endowed Chair in Physics

Elizabeth Gershoff, Amy Johnson McLaughlin Centennial Professorship in Home Economics

Feliciano Giustino, W.A. "Tex" Moncrief, Jr. Endowment in Simulation-Based Engineering and Sciences - Endowed Chair No. 6

Graeme Henkelman, George W. Watt Centennial Professorship

Shardha Jogee, Rex G. Baker, Jr. and McDonald Observatory Centennial Research Professorship in Astronomy

Pawan Kumar, Edward Randall, Jr., M.D. Centennial Professorship in Astronomy

Gunnar Martinsson, W.A. "Tex" Moncrief, Jr. Endowment in Simulation-Based Engineering and Sciences - Endowed Chair No. 4

Lauren Meyers, Denton A. Cooley Centennial Professor in Zoology

Qian Niu, Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair in Physics #3

Howard Ochman, Joseph J. & Jeanne M. Lagowski Regents Professor in Molecular Bioscience

Samuel Payne, Pennzoil Company Regents Professorship of Mathematics

Alison Preston, A. Wilson Nolle and Sir Raghunath P. Mahendroo Professorship in Neuroscience

Bernd Siebert, Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair in Mathematics #4

Edward Theriot, Harold C. and Mary D. Bold Regents Professorship of Cryptogamic Botany (Phycology)

Keiko Torii, Johnson & Johnson Centennial Chair in Plant Cell Biology

Claus Wilke, Jane and Roland Blumberg Centennial Professorship in Molecular Evolution​


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