Five honored as Distinguished University Professors for 2021

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Five faculty members have received one of the University of Michigan’s highest honors as Distinguished University Professors.

The Board of Regents approved the appointments July 15. They are effective Sept. 1, last throughout the recipient’s period of active service at U-M and may be retained after retirement.

The Distinguished University Professorships were established in 1947 to recognize senior faculty with exceptional scholarly or creative achievements, national and international reputations for academic excellence, and superior records of teaching, mentoring and service. Each professorship bears a name determined by the appointed professor in consultation with his or her dean.

Distinguished University Professors are invited to give an inaugural lecture early in their appointments.

The 2021 recipients are:

Ruth Behar
Ruth Behar

Ruth Behar, James W. Fernandez Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology. She is the Victor Haim Perera Collegiate Professor of Anthropology and professor of anthropology in LSA.  

In their recommendation letter, Susan M. Collins, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and Michael Solomon, Rackham Graduate School dean and vice provost for academic affairs, wrote, “Professor Behar is a cultural anthropologist and writer in the humanist tradition who throughout her career has intertwined scholarship, fiction and poetry to fashion dialogs between her personal lived experience and the lives, histories and cultures of the people she seeks to know and understand. She translates her insights into richly expressive language for both scholars and public audiences.”

Nancy G. Love
Nancy G. Love

Nancy G. Love, JoAnn Silverstein Distinguished University Professor of Environmental Engineering. She is also the Borchardt and Glysson Collegiate Professor and a professor of civil and environment engineering in the College of Engineering.

“Professor Love is recognized internationally as among the foremost researchers in environmental engineering and chemistry and the use of biological systems for assuring water quality. … She has made breakthrough discoveries and developed transformative approaches to water process engineering to better protect the health of the public and the environment,” Collins and Solomon wrote.

Joel B. Slemrod
Joel B. Slemrod

• Joel B. Slemrod, David Bradford Distinguished University Professor of Economics. He is also the Paul W. McCracken Professor of Business Economics and professor of business economics and public policy in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business; and professor of economics in LSA.

“Professor Slemrod is a leading global authority on the design and effects of tax policies. He has made numerous path-breaking contributions to almost every area of inquiry related to taxation,” Collins and Solomon wrote. “He has demonstrated how tax policies affect the behavior of households and firms, and his insights have both shaped academic understanding of taxation and contributed to the structure of government tax practices worldwide.”

Janet L. Smith
Janet L. Smith

Janet L. Smith, Martha L. Ludwig Distinguished University Professor of Biological Chemistry. She is also the Margaret J. Hunter Collegiate Professor in the Life Sciences and a professor of biological chemistry in the Medical School; and a professor of biophysics in LSA.

“Professor Smith is an internationally recognized leader in chemical and structural biology who has developed powerful new methodologies for examining the structure and function of proteins,” Collins and Solomon wrote. “She has made path-breaking contributions in the use of x-rays to extract atomic-level information from crystals of proteins and to construct three-dimensional models from this data that reveal the structure and function of these complex molecules.”

Karen E. Smith
Karen E. Smith

Karen E. Smith, William Fulton Distinguished University Professor of Mathematics. She is also the M.S. Keeler II Professor of Mathematics and professor of mathematics in LSA.

“Professor Smith is a distinguished mathematician whose research is in algebraic geometry, a field of study that seeks to understand the properties of the solutions of systems of polynomial equations and leads to some of the deepest areas of all mathematics,” Collins and Solomon wrote. “While a highly abstract field of mathematics, algebraic geometry has a host of applications, from computer-aided design to medical applications to cybersecurity. Professor Smith is a leader is understanding the field from a theoretical perspective and in discovering its conceptual connections with other areas of mathematics.”

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