Three U-M faculty members awarded Guggenheim Fellowships


Three University of Michigan professors are among 175 winners of the Guggenheim Fellowships, awarded annually for distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment.

Christiane Gruber

Howard Markel

Eran Pichersky

Adding “Guggenheim” to their list of accomplishments are Christiane Gruber, associate professor of Islamic art; Dr. Howard Markel, the George E. Wantz, M.D. Professor of the History of Medicine; and Eran Pichersky, the Michael M. Martin Collegiate Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.

“The national competition for Guggenheim Fellowships is intense and we are proud that three of our faculty members are being recognized for their outstanding and innovative scholarly work,” said Provost Martha Pollack. “Professors Gruber, Markel and Pichersky are in very different fields and their selection is indicative of the strength and diversity of the research undertaken at the university.”

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded the fellowships from nearly 3,100 applicants. This year’s winners include artists, scholars and scientists.

For Gruber, the fellowship will enable her to write her fourth book, titled “Gezi Graffiti: Resistance and Visual Culture in Contemporary Turkey.” This study explores how individuals experience and perform political dissent in a contemporary Middle Eastern context. It focuses in particular on the Turkish Gezi Resistance Movement, which created an array of oppositional self-images during summer 2013.

“At this time, I was active on the ground in Istanbul and shot more than 3,000 photographs,” she said. “My personal photographic archive — quite possibly the largest of its kind in the world — forms the backbone of my current project.”

Gezi Graffiti is rooted in multiple disciplines, most especially art history, visual culture, sociology, anthropology, and media, museum, conflict and memory studies. The book thus adopts a range of methodological and theoretical approaches drawn from these various fields within the humanities to pose a number of critical questions about the role and power images play in the political, social, cultural and religious conflicts unfolding in Turkey today.

Markel says the fellowship “is one of the signal honors in academic scholarship and creative enterprise.”

“I am both humbled and thrilled by this important award,” said Markel, who also is a member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and a professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases, psychiatry, health management and policy, history, and English language and literature.

Markel will have time to complete his book on the Kellogg brothers of Battle Creek — Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who invented the concept of “wellness” at his famed Battle Creek Sanitarium, and his younger brother, Will Kellogg, who co-invented corn flakes, which was initially a health food, and developed that product into a world famous cereal company.

“My book will explore the history of American medicine from the Civil War to World War II, the development of the modern medical center, medical education, and preventive medicine, the creation of food manufacturing, mass advertising and marketing, and a contentious relationship between two brothers who, literally, changed the world,” Markel said.

“The spice of life: How plant chemicals have influenced human behavior and history” is the title of Pichersky’s project. Each plant species makes a set of unique compounds that help it attract pollinators and other beneficial organisms, repel herbivores and suppress the growth of plant competitors. People have often found specific plant chemicals to be valuable as spices, food preservatives and medicines of various kinds, including the behavior-modifying ones.

“For many years, my laboratory has studied how plants synthesize many of these compounds,” Pichersky said. “The Guggenheim Fellowship will now allow me to take a sabbatical to research and write a book on how the specific chemical compositions of various plant species have had an (often unconscious) influence on human actions — for example, agricultural practices, but also other cultural activities as well.”

Since its establishment in 1925, the foundation has granted more than $325 million in fellowships to almost 18,000 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates and poets laureate, as well as winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal and other important, internationally recognized honors.

“It’s exciting to name 175 new Guggenheim Fellows. These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best,” said Edward Hirsch, president of the foundation.



  1. Michelle Krell Kydd
    on April 10, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Can’t wait to read the book that Dr. Pichersky plans on writing. He makes the science of plant volatiles come to life.

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