Twenty-nine to receive faculty awards at annual celebration


Editor’s Note: The information for this story was written and provided by the Office of University Development and compiled by Katie Kelton of The University Record.

Twenty-nine University of Michigan faculty members are receiving awards this fall in recognition of their notable contributions in the areas of teaching, mentoring, service and scholarship. They will be honored at a Faculty Awards Celebration on Oct. 23.

Distinguished University Professorships

The Board of Regents created the Distinguished University Professorships in 1947 to recognize senior faculty for exceptional scholarly or creative achievement, national and international reputation, and superior records of teaching, mentoring and service. Faculty selected for the recognition, in consultation with the dean of the school or college in which he or she holds an appointment, name the professorship after a person of distinction in their field of interest. The duration of the appointment is unlimited. Newly appointed Distinguished University Professors are expected to deliver an inaugural lecture. The recipients are:

Kevin C. Chung

William C. Grabb Distinguished University Professor of Surgery; Charles B. G. de Nancrede Professor of Surgery, and professor of plastic surgery and of orthopaedic surgery in the Medical School

Headshot of Kevin C. Chung
Kevin C. Chung

Chung is expert at repairing and rebuilding hands and arms due to congenital abnormalities, trauma or destructive arthritic conditions. He has trained hundreds of college and medical students, residents, fellows and faculty at the Medical School, and taught surgical techniques to doctors caring for children in the world’s poorest countries. Chung is chief of hand surgery and director of the Comprehensive Hand Center at U-M. He also holds an M.S. in statistics and research design from the School of Public Health, where he was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar. Chung conducts health-policy research on gender and racial disparities across surgical disciplines. He has documented race-based inequities in post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. Improving patient outcomes, surgical quality and health disparities have been the cornerstone of his research. Chung has published more than 800 peer-reviewed articles and received many honors, including the Sheen Award from the American College of Surgeons for outstanding contributions to mankind through the fields of medicine and medical research. His students across the spectrum describe him as “truly exceptional.”

Mark J. Kushner

William P. Allis Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; George I. Haddad Collegiate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and of nuclear engineering and radiological science in the College of Engineering

Headshot of Mark J. Kushner
Mark J. Kushner

Kushner is recognized internationally as a leader in the science and technology of low-temperature plasmas. The use of LTPs is redefining national security, semi-conductor chip manufacturing and micro-electronic devices, and medical devices and implants. Kushner’s vision and leadership help extend the field beyond its boundaries. A truly interdisciplinary scholar, Kushner was at the forefront of explaining the complex processes that occur when plasmas interact with liquid, foundational knowledge for plasma medicine and plasma agriculture. His research led to micro-plasmas for display technologies and methods for contamination-free semiconductor manufacturing. Seven technological societies have elected him as a fellow and he has received the major awards his field offers. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine enlist him to help set national research agendas. Most recently, he advised the Department of Energy’s Office of Science on plasma science in response to the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. Throughout his career, Kushner has supported women and underrepresented minorities in engineering and created a mentoring alliance with the American Physical Society’s Division of Plasma Physics.

Bhramar Mukherjee

John D. Kalbfleisch Distinguished University Professor of Biostatistics; John D. Kalbfleisch Collegiate Professor Biostatistics, professor of biostatistics, of epidemiology and of global public health in the School of Public Health; research professor and core faculty member in the Michigan Institute of Data Science; associate director for quantitative data sciences in the Rogel Cancer Center; and assistant vice president for research – research data services in the Office of the Vice President for Research

Photo of Bhramar Mukherjee
Bhramar Mukherjee

Mukherjee was elected to the National Academy of Medicine’s 2023 class in recognition of her outstanding professional achievements and commitment to service, an extraordinary feat for a scholar early in her career. She has also received five of U-M’s highest faculty honors: Collegiate Professorship in 2015, Faculty Recognition Award in 2015, Senior Fellowship in the Michigan Society of Fellows in 2016, Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in 2018 and the Sarah Goddard Power Award for improving the climate on campus for women in 2022. Mukherjee is an internationally recognized biostatistician specializing in case-control studies, gene-environment interaction, electronic health records, data integration, and analysis of large-scale environmental-exposure data. In the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she formed a study group of scholars from Michigan, the United States and India to model the virus outbreak in India. The work profoundly informed India’s pandemic policies. As a principal investigator for the MI-CARES project, she studies potentially cancerous effects of air pollution, heavy metals and other environmental hazards on those living in “environmental-injustice hotspots” in Michigan. Mukherjee has been widely credited for her sustained efforts to diversify the statistics field.

Kon-Well Wang

A. Galip Ulsoy Distinguished University Professor of Engineering; Stephen P. Timoshenko Collegiate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering

Photo of Kon-Well Wang
Kon-Well Wang

Wang is a preeminent scholar in mechanical engineering who has transformed the field through basic research, launched new cross-disciplinary avenues of study, and applied his foundational discoveries to benefit industry and society. Wang is internationally acclaimed for his path-breaking work in structural dynamics and controls, specifically adaptive structural and material systems that can sense, process information and respond in a controlled manner in real time. He has pioneered multi-physics approaches and introduced emerging nanotechnology and biology concepts into adaptive structures, spurring new inquiry.  His research has been harnessed to advance a broad range of engineering systems. The National Science Foundation and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers have called on Wang for his leadership in spearheading the visions for new research centers and educational initiatives at the national level to increase global competitiveness. He has received numerous honors for his research contributions including three lifetime achievement awards, and many recognitions for his teaching and service, and, as department chair, credited with exemplary leadership. At U-M, he received the College of Engineering’s highest faculty honor, the Stephen S. Attwood Award, and the campuswide Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award.

Patricia Wittkopp

Deborah E. Goldberg Distinguished University Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology; Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; Sally L. Allen Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, and associate dean for natural sciences in LSA

Headshot of Patricia Wittkopp
Patricia Wittkopp

Wittkopp’s research in evolutionary biology helps explain the process of genetic differentiation that has led to the planet’s approximately 8 million species. She also is a prodigious teaching talent who, as chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, earned the wholehearted respect of her faculty colleagues. Wittkopp studies how gene expression is regulated and evolves. Her work shows that genetic changes affecting gene expression are a key force driving evolutionary change, including contributing to the inability of different species to mate and produce viable, fertile offspring, a key requirement for speciation. She has developed methods to study gene regulation that are now used in multiple fields of biology. Wittkopp is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2019 received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution. A U-M graduate, she is revered for her teaching at U-M and of K-12 students through outreach activities. Her colleagues praise her leadership and credit her with enriching the department by recruiting talented and diverse new faculty. 

Distinguished Faculty Achievement Awards

The Distinguished Faculty Achievement Awards honor senior faculty who consistently have demonstrated outstanding achievements in the areas of scholarly research or creative endeavors, teaching and mentoring of students and junior colleagues, service and other activities. The recipients are:

Charles L. Brooks III

Cyrus Levinthal Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and Biophysics; Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Chemistry, professor of chemistry and of biophysics, and director of the program in biophysics in LSA; professor of macromolecular science and engineering in the College of Engineering

Headshot of Charles L. Brooks III
Charles L.
Brooks III

Brooks has made major contributions to statistical mechanics, computational chemistry and biophysics. He has also readied the next generation of scientists through the creation of new undergraduate courses, and has a longstanding commitment to helping students achieve their career goals in academia and biotechnology. His numerous national and international awards include the American Chemical Society’s National Award in Computational and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, the Gilda Loew Memorial Award from the International Society of Quantum Biology and Pharmacology, and the Hans Neurath Award, the Protein Society’s most prestigious award for advancing foundational knowledge in protein chemistry. Brooks has published more than 425 journal articles, including in Science and Nature. Most recently, he has developed a technique that rapidly evaluates the utility of drug candidates, making it possible for medicinal researchers to focus their efforts on the most promising prospects for improving human health. Brooks has held numerous leadership-service positions, including president of the Protein Society, an international, not-for-profit scholarly society, where he has worked to expand outreach to those underrepresented in the field.

Sherif El-Tawil

Antoine E. Naaman Collegiate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering

Headshot of Sherif El-Tawil
Sherif El-Tawil

El-Tawil has devoted his career to protecting human life through the design and construction of buildings and bridges, the modeling of human behavior during natural and man-made disasters, teaching excellence, and the patented development of a new type of steel fiber reinforcement that makes concrete substantially tougher and more durable. El-Tawil has used experimentation and computation to investigate how structural-engineering systems respond to earthquakes, hurricanes, blasts and other stressors. His findings have led to new design specifications for steel buildings in seismic zones in the United States and worldwide. After 9/11, El-Tawil investigated collapse-resistance construction, and his research became the basis for new building codes. He has made equally important safety contributions to bridge design. In the classroom, El-Tawil achieves near-perfect student evaluations from undergraduate and graduate students. He has won numerous teaching awards, including the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize. He has held most leadership positions in his department and is credited with comprehensive improvements to academic quality, operational efficiency and departmental finances.

Omolola Eniola-Adefeso

University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor; Vennema Professor of Chemical Engineering, professor of chemical engineering, of macromolecular science and engineering and of biomedical engineering, and associate dean for graduate and professional education in the College of Engineering

Headshot of Omolola Eniola-Adefeso

Eniola-Adefeso’s career is distinguished by a series of scientific leaps that have yielded unexpected advances in drug discovery and treatment. She also is a singularly effective advocate for underrepresented minorities and women in STEM fields, driving awareness and positive change at the department, university, state and federal levels. Eniola-Adefeso is recognized internationally as an authority on vascular dynamics and her revolutionary research has led to new treatments for several organ and systemic inflammatory conditions. She was the first to identify subtle differences in the shape of red blood cells in humans and mice, discovering that nanoparticle therapeutics that are effective in mice are likely ineffective in humans — a finding of vital importance. Her leadership role as vice chair for graduate education within the Department of Chemical Engineering helped propel its back-to-back top-10 rankings in U.S. News & World Report. Students are unequivocal in their praise of Eniola-Adefeso’s teaching and mentor-mentee relationships. She received the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize for her much-acclaimed Mass and Heat Transfer class. Through ardent and gutsy efforts, she has broadened the ranks of the scientific community.

Paula M. Lantz

University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor; James B. Hudak Professor of Health Policy and professor of public policy in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; professor of health management and policy in the School of Public Health

Headshot of Paula M. Lantz
Paula M. Lantz

Lantz is a nationally renowned social demographer and health policy scholar who builds bridges among academic researchers and policymakers to reduce social inequalities in health. A dedicated and inspiring educator, she is said to be “quite literally the best person to have on your side as a student.” Lantz researches the real-world issues driving population-health science, including how socioeconomic and racial inequality affects health over the course of one’s life and how restrictive abortion policies are likely to have negative effects on the health and social welfare of women and children. She served as principal investigator for $16.6 million in grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and others and has also been the lead or co-author of more than 110 peer-reviewed journal articles. She has earned a reputation as an interdisciplinary knowledge broker. In 2012, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, a singular honor that demonstrates the wide respect the profession has for her intellectual contributions. Lantz is a tireless advocate for the Ford School. She has held numerous leadership positions, including launching a new master’s degree in public affairs and serving as associate dean for academic affairs.

Thad A. Polk

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; Samuel D. Epstein Collegiate Professor of Psychology and professor of psychology in LSA

Headshot of Thad A. Polk
Thad A. Polk

Polk’s neuroscience research investigates how the mind is implemented in the brain. One of his major projects explores why cognitive function tends to decline with age. He is also a gifted teacher who personalizes large lecture classes and makes brain science available to lay audiences. Cognitive, sensory and motor function often get worse as we age, but not always. Polk asked, why do some people age more gracefully than others? His breakthrough is the discovery that levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid decline with age and that lower GABA levels are associated with noisier neural representations. Boosting GABA to the levels found in young adults may therefore help slow cognitive declines. Polk was named one of the top 300 professors in the United States by The Princeton Review. Although he often teaches more than 300 students, he connects with them via dinner parties and other social gatherings and by sending them personalized emails praising them when they do well. He receives near-perfect student evaluations and has produced a number of science courses for the general public.

Faculty Recognition Awards

The Faculty Recognition Awards are intended for mid-career faculty members who have demonstrated remarkable contributions to the university through achievements in scholarly research or creative endeavors; excellence as a teacher, adviser and mentor; and distinguished participation in service activities of the university and elsewhere. Eligible candidates include full professors with no more than four years in rank, and tenured associate professors. The recipients are:

Julie S. Biteen

Professor of chemistry and of biophysics, and associate chair of the Department of Chemistry in LSA

Headshot of Julie S. Biteen
Julie S. Biteen

Biteen is an international leader in biophysical and bioanalytical chemistry, a scholar who is shaping the field of high-resolution microscopy and physical chemistry, and an educator whom her students praise for the clarity, consistency and warmth of her instruction. Biteen has developed powerful, super-resolution microscopes that enable high-resolution, real-time imaging and analysis of nanometer-scale processes, including in living cells, research that is considered the innovative edge of modern bioscience. She has advanced fundamental bacterial cell biology, offering new insights into DNA replication and repair, bacteria responses to stress, and bacterial cell organization. In 2020, she received the Special Creativity Award from the National Science Foundation, and in 2021 she was elected to the leadership of the American Chemical Society’s Physical Chemistry Division. Biteen, who receives near-perfect evaluations from her students, developed a core values statement for those working in her lab that defines what it means to be a scientist in the 21st century. It has been adopted by colleagues and scientists around the world. She is her department’s first associate chair for graduate education.

Ashley N. Gearhardt

Professor of psychology in LSA

Headshot of Ashley N. Gearhardt
Ashley N. Gearhardt

Gearhardt conducts groundbreaking research into the causes of obesity and addictive eating disorders. An internationally recognized thought leader in the medical and psychological sciences, she investigates whether biological and psychological addictive mechanisms contribute to the development and maintenance of obesity. Gearhardt’s clinical research spans the empirical evaluation of foods most associated with obesity; the food environments associated with excessive food intake, such as exposure to fast-food advertising; and brain studies that reveal food addiction having a similar pattern of neural activation as substance-use disorders. Since joining U-M in 2012, Gearhardt has had a consistent record of external funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and American Heart Association. Her work has been published in prestigious journals and media outlets, including The New York Times and Forbes magazine. A beloved instructor, she is a regular nominee for the Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Teaching. She also mentors graduate and postdoctoral students and junior faculty.

Linda Goodrich

Professor emerita of dance (musical theatre) in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Headshot of Linda Goodrich
Linda Goodrich

Goodrich brings the best of musical theatre in the United States, Europe and Japan to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. A professional actress, dancer, director and choreographer, she has guided the school to become a top program in the country and readied thousands of students for careers on the stage and screen. Goodrich has developed and taught 18 classes in dance, choreography, acting and performance, and currently is interim chair of the Department of Musical Theatre. She “models what it means to lead with empathy,” as one student described, and teaches across the dance and acting curriculums, combining the two to develop more expressive dancers and more physically connected actors. Goodrich has directed and choreographed approximately 40 productions for the Department of Musical Theatre. Her leadership, knowledge, connections and experience in the industry have been vital to the success of U-M graduates attaining professional roles. To date, 21 of her students have received major professional awards, including Tony, Grammy, Oscar, Golden Globe, Olivier and Drama Desk awards. She is directing at the off-Broadway MCC Theatre in New York for U-M graduate Gavin Creel’s new musical, “Walk on Through.”

Timothy Y. James

Lewis E. Wehmeyer and Elaine Prince Wehmeyer Professor of Fungal Taxonomy, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and curator of fungi at the Herbarium in LSA

Headshot of Timothy Y. James
Timothy Y. James

James is an international expert on fungal evolution and biology. His pioneering research has transformed scientific understanding of the natural world and is helping address urgent conservation needs. James used single-cell genomic sequencing to document the diversity of unculturable fungi and their evolutionary relationships, a previously uncharted area of study. His findings have provided insights into a widespread, species-rich group of fungi that are ecologically and potentially medically important. James has contributed to this research as a key member of an international team working to reverse the global decline of amphibians, a crisis caused by the rapid spread of a specific fungal pathogen. He is now curating live cultures of the pathogen at U-M’s Herbarium as a resource for investigators working worldwide to save amphibians. He was founding director of the Pathogen Biorepository Initiative that aims to grow U-M collections of animal tissues for pathogen research. James is a former director of the Frontiers Master’s Program, his department’s flagship effort to recruit and ready underrepresented students for its doctoral program.

Carolyn C. Kuranz

Associate professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences in the College of Engineering

Headshot of Carolyn C. Kuranz
Carolyn C. Kuranz

Kuranz is one of the nation’s foremost scholars in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences. An expert in fusion and plasma science, her contributions are widely praised, including as a fellow of the American Physical Society, an appellation held by only one-half of 1% of those working in her field. Kuranz received her Ph.D. in 2009 and has had 135 articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. As primary investigator, she has received more than $20 million in funding; as co-investigator, the grants total more than $85 million. The National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Nuclear Security Agency support her research. In addition, she is one of the co-investigators for what will become the highest-power laser in the United States and among the most powerful in the world — the $35 million NSF ZEUS Laser Facility. Kuranz is a hands-on educator, actively mentoring each of her students. She also is faculty adviser to 60-plus students enrolled in Engineering Physics. She meets with each individually, discusses proposed curricula and internship opportunities, and counsels them on post-graduation options and long-term career planning.

University Diversity and Social Transformation Professorships

The University Diversity and Social Transformation Professorships, which were launched in 2019, honor senior faculty whose work has promoted the university’s goals around diversity, equity and inclusion. Recipients will hold their initial appointment for five years. They also will receive special faculty fellow status at the National Center for Institutional Diversity and spend at least one semester as a faculty fellow-in-residence. The recipients are:

Paula M. Lantz

University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor; James B. Hudak Professor of Health Policy and professor of public policy in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; professor of health management and policy in the School of Public Health

Photo of Paula M. Lantz
Paula M. Lantz

Throughout her career, Lantz has practiced the tenets of diversity, equity and inclusion. As a scholar, administrator, educator and faculty mentor, she has led by example, believing in the benefits of a just society, advocating for change and building broad coalitions to realize that change. Lantz is a nationally recognized social demographer and epidemiologist who works to improve population health and reduce socioeconomic, racial, geographic and other types of health inequality. She examines how public policy contributes to the systematic and structural inequalities that drive social and health disparities. At U-M, she has taken a hands-on approach to help bring about an equitable, inclusive community. Lantz has helped lead meaningful changes to the curricula, recruiting procedures and protocols, school climate and accountability structures, with a focus on making lasting change through organizational policy reform. She has also focused on learning from students, recognizing that those experiencing systematic exclusion must have their feelings recognized and addressed as a phenomenon independent from the desired institutional change.

Louise Toppin

University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor; professor of music (voice) in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Headshot of Louise Toppin
Louise Toppin

Toppin is an artist, scholar, educator and cultural activist. A U-M graduate and recipient of its Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, she has made it her life’s work to find, preserve and perform the previously lost classical compositions of African Americans and other long-marginalized artists. Toppin is a professor of music and has released more than a dozen world-premiere recordings as both singer and pianist. Her performances showcase Black composers whose music — long ignored by standard imprints — she has recovered, engraved and published. Her scholarly discoveries have galvanized a field of study that otherwise might not exist. Toppin founded U-M’s George Shirley Vocal Competition, a national, three-day event for high school, undergraduate and pre-professional singers. She directs Videmus, a nonprofit organization that advises cultural institutions on issues of racial justice. A beloved teacher and mentor, she is similarly revered on the world stage, including at the U. S. Capitol where she performed in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment for Congress and President Barack Obama.

Kyle Powys Whyte

University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor; George Willis Pack Professor and professor of environment and sustainability in the School for Environment and Sustainability; professor of philosophy in LSA

Headshot of Kyle Powys Whyte
Kyle Powys Whyte

Whyte is a universally esteemed scholar, educator, diplomat and advocate for the equitable and widespread involvement of Indigenous peoples in climate-change science and higher education. He champions Indigenous knowledge for solving the worsening climate-change crisis and develops educational opportunities for Indigenous students to become environmental justice practitioners and scholars. Whyte, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, has single-handedly established new fields of study regarding Indigenous justice and the environment. His research reveals that Indigenous people, because of the long-term effects of land dispossession, are more exposed to the hazards of climate change than they would have been on their ancestral land. He established the Tishman Center for Social Justice and the Environment, which supports students pursuing environmental justice careers. Whyte has trained hundreds of climate scientists on the ethics of knowledge exchange with Indigenous peoples. He has led major policy reforms at the state and federal levels, including as an architect of the Biden administration’s Justice 40 Initiative, which pledges that 40% of infrastructure investment flows to communities overburdened by pollution. 

Alford A. Young Jr.

University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor; Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; Edgar G. Epps Collegiate Professor of Sociology, professor of sociology and of Afroamerican and African studies, chair of the Department of Sociology and associate director of the Center for Social Solutions in LSA; professor of public policy in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Headshot of Alford A. Young Jr.
Alford A. Young Jr.

Young has richly expanded sociological scholarship on Black identity. His widespread service at U-M and nationally reflects a longstanding commitment to Black Americans’ essential role in shaping strategies and establishing outcomes for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Young stands at the forefront of a generation of scholars who study Black lives on their own terms, not in relation to a white standard. He examines African American history and culture through the prism of structural racism and persistent racial privilege. He has led groups that have shaped the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion practices since 1996. Young is faculty director of the Anti-Racism Collaborative at U-M’s National Center for Institutional Diversity, and an associate director for the Center for Social Solutions where he supervises four research areas: Diversity and Democracy, Slavery and its Aftermath, The Future of Work, and Water, Equity and Security. In 2007, he founded the Scholars’ Network on Black Masculinity, a national, interdisciplinary, multigenerational organization that seeks to improve the well-being of African American men through the reshaping of perceptions and sharing of the cultural dimensions of the Black male experience.

Collegiate Research Professorship Award

The Collegiate Research Professorship Award honors exceptional scholarly achievement and impact on advancing knowledge in science, engineering, health, education, the arts, the humanities or other academic field of study. Research professors with at least a 60% appointment are eligible. The recipients are:

J. Trent Alexander

Collegiate Research Professor; faculty associate, Population Studies Center, and associate director and research professor, Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research in the Institute for Social Research

Headshot of J. Trent Alexander
J. Trent Alexander

Alexander has created foundational big-data resources that are transforming the social sciences. Using these new resources, he is conducting innovative studies that expand our understanding of America’s past and may help to shape our future. As associate director and research professor at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, Alexander leads a team responsible for curating, preserving and disseminating the holdings of the largest social-science data archive in the world. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Census Bureau and several private foundations, he leads the Decennial Census Digitization and Linkage Project. DCDL is a groundbreaking data infrastructure initiative that will make it possible to investigate the lives, jobs and families of Americans from 1940 to present. He is using these data to document the intergenerational effects of the African American Great Migration and the long-term outcomes of the G.I. Bill’s home loan program, among many other projects. Alexander joined U-M in 2017, after seven years at the U.S. Census Bureau and a decade at the University of Minnesota.

Aruna V. Sarma

Collegiate Research Professor; research professor of urology in the Medical School; research professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health

Headshot of Aruna V. Sarma
Aruna V. Sarma

Sarma’s achievements during the past 20 years have placed her in the highest echelon of urologic and epidemiologic researchers. She is an expert in benign urologic conditions — the burden, risk and progression of male and female urinary and sexual dysfunction — including the intersection of diabetes and urologic complications, a novel line of inquiry she first discovered. Sarma is chief of the Dow Division of Health Services Research, director of residency research within the Department of Urology, and assistant dean for research faculty at the Medical School. She has received more than $20 million in external funding since 2000, significantly contributing to the Department of Urology being named No. 1 in the United States for National Institutes of Health funding for the second straight year. Sarma has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts and supports and trains next-generation scholars and practitioners as director of two NIH training grants. As a result of her work, she was invited to write the inaugural chapter on urologic complications for “Diabetes in America,” a leading primer on the clinical and economic impact of diabetes in the United States. Sarma is a member of the American College of Epidemiology.

Research Faculty Achievement Award

The Research Faculty Achievement Award honors people who hold at least a 60% appointment at the rank of research associate professor, research scientist or associate research scientist. Selection criteria include exceptional scholarly achievements, as evidenced by significant contributions to an academic field of study over time, a specific outstanding discovery or the development of innovative technology or practice. The recipients are:

Andrew Alt

Director of the Center for Chemical Genomics, associate research scientist in the Life Sciences Institute; associate research scientist, Department of Pharmacology in the Medical School

Headshot of Andrew Alt
Andrew Alt

Alt is a drug-discovery researcher and director of the Center for Chemical Genomics, a core facility in the Life Sciences Institute that provides expert guidance to researchers involved in early phase drug discovery. Alt is also responsible for a scientific breakthrough in the treatment of opioid addiction. Alt graduated from U-M in 2000 with a doctorate in pharmacology. For more than 15 years, he worked in the pharmaceutical industry, advancing drug discovery, especially high throughput screening of large libraries of compounds. He returned to U-M in 2018 to direct the CCG and its high-throughput screening operations. The CCG generates more than a million data points each year in support of biomedical research in oncology and neuroscience, and metabolic, cardiovascular and infectious diseases. Alt is an authority on G Protein Coupled Receptors, a class of proteins that are the target for approximately 40% of all clinically used drugs, including opioid analgesics. His discovery of novel molecules that interact with opioid receptors in a new way, unlike existing opioid drugs, may make it possible to replace prescription opioids with safer, non-addictive pain medications.

Kathleen DeSantis Klinich

Research scientist in the Biosciences Group and chair of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee in the U-M Transportation Research Institute

Headshot of Kathleen DeSantis Klinich
DeSantis Klinich

Klinich is a national expert in automotive safety and occupant protection, particularly for children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. She studies injury-prevention strategies and shares her findings with regulatory agencies, including the National Highway Transportation Administration, and those who design products, develop policies, and pass laws for occupant safety. Klinich, who earned her doctorate in 2006 at U-M, performed a study leading to the recommendation that children should use booster seats in motor vehicles until they reach 4 feet, 10 inches tall. This recommendation helped achieve a 33% drop in pediatric motor-vehicle fatalities since 2004 for children younger than 10. Other research showed seat belts are essential to maternal and fetal health in the event of a crash, a finding heralded by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Other research has addressed how people who travel while seated in their wheelchairs can independently use automated vehicles, and has been expanded to investigate whether passengers can safely use their own wheelchairs on aircraft. Klinich has received $6.9 million in funding and has produced 55 peer-reviewed journal articles and 74 industry reports. She also leads diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Research Faculty Recognition Award

The Research Faculty Recognition Award honors people who hold at least a 60% appointment at the rank of research assistant professor or assistant research scientist. Selection criteria include exceptional scholarly achievements, as evidenced by publications or other scholarly activities in any academic field of study. The recipients are:  

Young Geun Park

Associate research scientist and lecturer I in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering

Headshot of Young Geun Park
Young Geun Park

Park has made significant contributions to nano-biomaterials and the translation of biomedical systems. In particular, he has developed bioinspired nano-molecular probes and integrated point-of-care biosystems. As an interdisciplinary researcher, he pursues key biomolecules linked to diseases and translates these discoveries into portable, minimally invasive point-of-care diagnostic technologies. Park’s work balances the thrill of creating novel nano-biostructures and systems with the testing required for clinical usage. These technologies make it possible for clinicians to obtain rapid and sensitive diagnostic results during patient visits or soon thereafter, a crucial development given the current precision and personalized health care paradigm. These technological developments have transformed the practice of critical medical care. Since joining the College of Engineering in 2016, Park has produced more than 60 publications in this field. He has also consistently secured financing for research totaling more than $1.2 million from public and private organizations. He has mentored more than 40 students, largely undergraduates and those underrepresented in engineering, including women, African Americans and Latinos. These students have taken part in his studies in the areas of bioengineering, microdevices and nanophotonics.

University Librarian Achievement Award

The University Librarian Achievement Award recognizes exceptional distinction reflected in active and innovative career achievements in library, archival or curatorial services. The recipient is:

Deirdre Spencer

Librarian for history of art, head of the Fine Arts Library in the U-M Library

Headshot of Deirdre Spencer
Deirdre Spencer

Spencer has shepherded the Fine Arts Library for more than 35 years. She expanded its art history and visual culture collections to reflect artistic developments nationally and internationally, and has championed campuswide efforts to expand the reach and practice of the arts. Spencer heads the Fine Arts Library, yet representatives from disciplines such as the Medical School, Department of Mathematics, and Environmental Sciences, wrote in support of her nomination. As librarian, she is responsible for collection development, budget management, library instruction, liaison, and outreach to the Department of History of Art and beyond. She is credited with expanding the African and African American collections and “the blooming of South Asian art history at Michigan,” among other areas of the visual arts. Spencer was chosen to serve as secretary of the Faculty Senate, and as a member of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs she launched and chaired its Committee on Anti-Racism. She recruited the first African American professor to the Department of History of Art and is widely praised for inspiring students and young professionals.

University Librarian Recognition Award

The University Librarian Recognition Award recognizes active and innovative early career achievement in library, archival or curatorial services. They are presented to librarians, archivists or curators who have no more than eight years’ practice in their profession. The recipient is:

Denise Leyton

Associate librarian, strategic projects coordinator in library environments in the U-M Library

Headshot of Denise Leyton
Denise Leyton

Leyton is a champion of change. A two-time U-M graduate, she has led the creation and implementation of systems and services that have improved the operations of the U-M Library. She also worked to make well-being a central, cultural priority benefitting the campus community. Leyton began her career as a library student worker, progressing to library staffer and, in 2015, to librarian. She is a holistic thinker and collaborative leader who advances the library’s mission as “a platform that enables discovery, teaching, learning, health, invention and creative expression.” Leyton utilizes a variety of assessment methods to identify needs and then builds teams to formulate solutions. She proposed a data-driven reporting and evaluation plan to understand the use of the library’s public spaces, service points and collection methods over time to better align resources with user needs. Leyton was pivotal in launching the first Week of Wellness, a multifaceted effort to promote student self-care and well-being. She also was instrumental in the creation of the Student Parent and Caregiver Study Room, a dedicated space for an underserved population.

Distinguished Faculty Governance Award

The Distinguished Faculty Governance Award recognizes people with a history of distinguished service to faculty governance over several years with an emphasis on universitywide service. The recipient is:

Natalia V. Czap

Professor of economics in the College of Arts, Science, and Letters, UM-Dearborn

Headshot of Natalia V. Czap
Natalia V. Czap

Czap specializes in behavioral economics, experimental economics, behavioral environmental policy and well-being. In addition to her research, teaching and service to the campus and economics profession, she has served three terms in UM-Dearborn’s Faculty Senate, including as chair from 2020-22. Faculty from across campus praise Czap for her integrity, diplomacy, consistency, transparency, proactive communication and fairness. As UM-Dearborn’s Senate chair, she formed nine task forces to address enrollment management, the budget, retention and graduation, revision of Campus Bylaws, research support and development and academic integrity. She also led the development and adoption of new course evaluations, and procedures for the reapportionment of Senate seats. Czap strengthened shared governance on the Dearborn campus by demanding wider inclusion of faculty in campus decision making and hiring of senior leadership, restructuring several Senate committees, promoting experience and expertise over rank and title for greater inclusion of lecturers in faculty governance, and supporting inclusivity in admissions. She managed the COVID-19 response for the Faculty Senate, initiating frequent communication with campus administrators regarding safety policies. Czap received Faculty Senate Appreciation Awards for her service as vice chair in 2017 and chair in 2020-22.

James S. Jackson Distinguished Career Award for Diversity Scholarship

The James S. Jackson Distinguished Career Award for Diversity Scholarship recognizes a senior faculty member at U-M who has made important contributions to understanding diversity, equity and inclusion through research, scholarship and creative endeavors, who has an outstanding record as an educator in teaching and mentoring, and whose work has focused on issues of importance to underrepresented communities. The recipient is:

Robert M. Sellers

Charles D. Moody Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Education, professor of psychology in LSA; professor of education in the Marsal Family School of Education

Headshot of Robert M. Sellers
Robert M. Sellers

Sellers has devoted his career as a scholar and an administrator to understanding the role of race in the psychological lives of African Americans and creating tools and programs to increase representation of students and faculty of color U-M. The White House tapped him in 2022 to assist the selection of National Medal of Science recipients and, in 2023, he was elected to the National Academy of Science. Sellers, a U-M graduate, has made foundational theoretical and empirical contributions to the field of psychology. He developed a framework for understanding African American racial identity that revolutionized the field and survey methods that are considered the “gold standard” across the social sciences. Sellers is former vice provost for equity, inclusion and academic affairs and chief diversity officer. Under his leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion efforts have been infused into every facet of the university. To increase recruitment, retention and graduation of students of color, he was key in the creation of Wolverine Pathways, a free, year-round college preparatory program for seventh- to 12th-graders living in underresourced communities in Michigan.

Regents’ Award for Distinguished Public Service

The Regents’ Award for Distinguished Public Service honors people who have made contributions to public service activities that relate closely to teaching and research and reflect professional and academic expertise. The service activities may occur outside the university in local, state, national or international arenas. The recipient is:

Thomas C. Henthorn

Dorothea E. Wyatt Professor of United States History and professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences, UM-Flint

Headshot of Thomas C. Henthorn
Thomas C. Henthorn

Henthorn brings public history and urban development to life for his UM-Flint students, as well as to those living in greater Flint and across the state of Michigan. Through community-based research and cooperative partnerships, he engages wide audiences and imparts rich, local history to learners of all ages. Henthorn’s research centers on the city of Flint, its neighborhoods and their pressing challenges. He studies the antecedents of racial discrimination to bring awareness to the consequences of residential segregation and unequal urban development, such as health disparities and inequitable treatment in labor markets. Henthorn works side-by-side with groups dedicated to social justice and historic preservation. He reaches his audiences through classroom and online teaching, YouTube videos, museum exhibits and bicycle tours. The most popular tour offered through Flint City Bike Tours is Henthorn’s “Riding the Red Line: A Historical Tour of Residential Segregation in Flint.” Henthorn has served as state scholar for Michigan Humanities, arranging programming and delivering lectures for five exhibits, each traveling to some 30 communities in Michigan, over five years. In 2021, Michigan Humanities named Henthorn the Humanities Champion of the Year.

University Press Book Award

The University Press Book Award is presented to members of the university teaching and research staff, including emeritus members, whose books have added the greatest distinction to the Press List. Selections are made from books published within a span of two calendar years. The recipient is:

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes

Professor of American culture, of romance languages and literature, of women’s and gender studies, and chair of the Department of American culture in LSA

Headshot of Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes
La Fountain-Stokes

In his award-winning “Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance,” La Fountain-Stokes writes that drag and transgender performance is a fearless form of artistic expression, one that explores race, ethnicity, poverty, politics, commodification and other issues in addition to gender and sexuality. La Fountain-Stokes works at the forefront of academic efforts to expand Latino/a/x studies to include analysis of drag and transgender performance as a driver of social change. With a focus on Puerto Rico and its diaspora, he analyzed the lives and work of contemporary performers and activists of color as well as consequential literature and films to demonstrate how the art form braves the boundaries of traditional gender expression and sexuality while creating a communal relationship with audiences. “Translocas” received the 2021 Sylvia Rivera Award in Transgender Studies from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York. La Fountain-Stokes holds leadership positions in the United States and Canada dedicated to the art and culture of people of color.


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