Distinguished University Professor presentations set for Feb. 8


Three faculty members who have received one of the University of Michigan’s top honors will talk about their career work before a virtual and in-person audience Feb. 8.

Distinguished University Professorship lecturers Nancy G. Love, Arthur Lupia and Donald R. Zak will speak from 3-4:30 p.m. in the Rackham Amphitheatre. Members of the public are welcome to attend. The event also will be livestreamed.

The Board of Regents established the Distinguished University Professorships in 1947 to recognize senior faculty who have exceptional scholarly or creative achievements, national and international reputations for academic excellence and superior records of teaching, mentoring and service.

Each honoree names the professorship after a person of distinction in their field. Recipients give an inaugural lecture that highlights their professional and scholarly experience. 

People who wish to attend or watch the livestream of the lectures can register at events.umich.edu/event/91022.

Here’s a look at the professors and the topics of their presentations:

Nancy G. Love

Nancy G. Love

“Moving Outside the Fence: Achieving Sustainable and Equitable Access to High Quality Water Services”

Love is the JoAnn Silverstein Distinguished University Professor of Environmental Engineering, Borchardt and Glysson Collegiate Professor and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering. She is a licensed professional engineer and a board-certified environmental engineer.

In collaboration with her students, Love works at the interface of water, infrastructure and public health in domestic and global settings. Her talk will focus on her career-long emphasis on the effectiveness and limitations of water treatment approaches used to provide high-quality drinking water and sanitation services in both the United States and in urban settings in low-income countries.

Love’s group uses advanced biological and chemical methods to understand how well existing or developing water treatment technologies are performing. However, the most innovative and functional solutions that create sustainable and equitable water system services require social-technical approaches, Love said.

Love will trace how this transformation has occurred over her career and how the water technology approaches she has worked on address sustainability and equity more broadly.

Arthur Lupia

Arthur Lupia

“The Public Value of Science in an Era of Misinformation”

Lupia is the Gerald R. Ford Distinguished University Professor of Political Science in LSA.

His research examines how people make decisions when they lack information. Lupia’s areas of expertise include information processing, coalition building and strategic communication.

In his lecture, Lupia will talk about opportunities and challenges for people who seek to use science to improve quality of life for themselves and others.

As individuals, communities and nations, quality of life depends on the ability to base decisions on reliable information. While the emergence of new forms of mass communication increases opportunities for sharing information, Lupia said, it also creates new opportunities to spread misinformation.

Donald R. Zak

Donald Zak
Donald Zak

“Soil Microbial Communities and the Future Functioning of Terrestrial Ecosystems”

Donald R. Zak is the Alexander H. Smith Distinguished University Professor of Ecology and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability.

His research has elucidated connections between the composition and function of soil microbial communities and the importance of microbial activity in regulating ecosystem-level processes, especially in response to global environmental change.

Microorganisms mediate an array of biochemical processes in soil, interact with one another in a biologically diverse community and, in turn, mediate biogeochemical cycles that are of global importance. Understanding how composition and function are linked in soil microbial communities remains a contemporary challenge, and developing this understanding can reveal the molecular mechanisms underlying many biogeochemical processes.

In his presentation, Zak will discuss how microbial community function can be contingent on community composition and the potential implications of this relationship on the future functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. He also will talk about how a changing environment can modify the ecological constraints on soil microbial communities and the compositional and functional responses that result.


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