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Distinguished McKnight University Professors

The Distinguished McKnight University Professorship program recognizes outstanding faculty members who have recently achieved full professor status. Recipients hold the title “Distinguished McKnight University Professor” for as long as they remain employed at the University of Minnesota.

The updated nomination materials for this award can be found here.


2016 Distinguished McKnight Professors

  • Bill Arnold

    William A. Arnold
    Environmental Engineering, College of Science and Engineering
    Clean Water for All: Ensuring the Quality and Safety of Water Resources

    Prof. Arnold's research centers on the environmental fate and impacts of manmade chemicals on which modern society relies. He seeks to define the processes by which industrial chemicals, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals are transformed in aquatic systems. He evaluates chemical persistence in lakes and rivers, identifies potentially harmful reaction products, and develops technologies to clean up contaminated waters to reverse or prevent environmental damage. His work ensures safe, clean water for people and ecosystems.

  • Kristin Hickman

    Kristin E. Hickman
    Law School
    Tax Administration: Efficacy and Legitimacy Through Transparency and Accountability

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. described taxes as “the lifeblood of government” and “the price we pay for a civilized society.” Without effective tax administration, taxes go uncollected, and government ceases to function. Kristin Hickman’s work evaluates IRS administrative practices with an eye toward facilitating and legitimizing tax administration through transparency, public participation, and judicial review. Relied upon by scholars, lawyers, the IRS, and the courts, her work is reshaping tax administration in the United States.

  • Sarah Hobbie

    Sarah E. Hobbie
    Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, College of Biological Sciences
    Understanding Consequences of Human-Caused Environmental Changes for Ecosystems:from Cities to the Great Plains

    From local to global scales, human activities, inadvertently and through deliberate management, are altering climate, atmospheric chemistry, landscapes, and biodiversity. Hobbie’s research aims to understand how these environmental changes are altering the structure and functioning of ecosystems. Her research ranges from city neighborhoods, where she explores the consequences of urbanization for biodiversity and water quality, to the Central Great Plains, where she explores ecosystem feedbacks to the global climate system.

  • George Karypis

    George Karypis
    Computer Science & Engineering, College of Science and Engineering
    Practical and Effective Algorithms for Big Data Applications on High-Performance Computing Architectures

    The nominee’s research work is concentrated in the areas of high-performance computing and data mining and focuses on developing novel algorithms that are grounded in theory and solve important problems in scientific computing, business intelligence, e-commerce, online systems, biology, and drug discovery, and on translating this research into practical and efficient software tools that can be used to solve real-world problems in these areas. These tools can be used both for educational purposes and also to enable novel research in the various scientific disciplines.

  • Michael Lackey

    Michael Lackey
    English, Division of the Humanities, University of Minnesota Morris
    Literature, Political History, and Social Justice

    From his book about African American atheist writers, which examines the role the God concept has played in the subjugation and violation of certain groups of people, to his multibook project about biofiction (literature that names its protagonist after an actual historical figure), Michael Lackey’s pioneering work as editor, interviewer, and author clarifies how literature functions to expose the structures and conditions of oppression and charts cultural and political pathways toward a more socially just future.

  • Erika Lee

    Erika Lee
    History, College of Liberal Arts
    Immigration and Race in the U.S. and the World

    Lee’s path-breaking research examines global migration and its consequences, especially to the U.S., from the colonial era to the present. She has discovered new sources of historical research and developed new frameworks that have changed the way scholars understand and write American and global history. Her award-winning books have broad national and international influence, she has helped to establish the interdisciplinary field of Asian American Studies, and she is a highly sought-after public intellectual.

  • Kathleen Vohs

    Kathleen Vohs
    Marketing, Carlson School
    The Perils and Promise of Human Motivation

    Professor Vohs studies human motivation, which inspires action toward immediate desires and lofty goals. Self-control helps people prioritize long-term outcomes over immediate rewards, and thus is exceptionally important for health, prosperity, rationality, and relationship success. Vohs shows why self-control failures are so common, and how to prevent them. Vohs discovered that the mere idea of money changes motivation. Thoughts about money enhance subsequent persistence and performance — but impede giving, helping, and caring.

2015 Distinguished McKnight Professors

  • George Heimpel

    George E. Heimpel
    Entomology
    Biological Control at a Crossroads in Agriculture and Conservation

    In biological control, living organisms are introduced to control invasive species.  This method has been used with great success, but also carries ecological risk. Professor Heimpel is making fundamental contributions in implementing this strategy to protect both soybeans in the U.S. and Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands.  He is also developing conceptual models that allow a balancing of benefits and risks in biological control to arrive at best overall solutions for managing invasive species.

  • Alexandra B. Klass

    Alexandra B. Klass
    Law
    Transporting Energy: U.S. Infrastructure Challenges

    Alexandra Klass’s research centers on energy law, environmental law, and natural resources law. Her recent work explores laws governing the nation’s energy transportation infrastructure—oil pipelines, natural gas pipelines, and electric transmission lines—and how changes in those laws could better respond to the new domestic sources of oil, natural gas, and wind energy that are in locations not well served by existing energy transportation infrastructure.

  • Jean O'Brien

    Jean O'Brien
    History
    American Indian Studies
    Indigenous Sovereignty and the State

    Jean O’Brien’s pioneering scholarship on Indigenous survival and self-determination within the settler state stands at the forefront of a new global approach to Indigenous studies. Her work has overturned conventional accounts of Indigenous history in the northeastern U.S., challenging national narratives that have written Indigenous peoples out of existence. She is co-founder and served as second president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the premier association for global Indigenous studies.

  • Frank J. Symons

    Frank J. Symons
    Educational Psychology
    Translating the Neuroscience of Pain to Transform the Treatment of Self-Injury

    Frank Symons’ ground-breaking work is transforming the field of special education by challenging the conventional wisdom about pain, sensory processing, and self-injury. The goal of his research is to bridge the gap between what neuroscience tells us about pain and what special education can do about self-injury. The significance of his approach is in identifying biomarker risk factors to improve the possibility of preventing the development of this devastating behavior disorder.

  • Jakub Tolar

    Jakub Tolar
    Pediatrics
    Pioneering New Uses of Stem Cells to Treat Incurable Genetic Disorders in Children

    Inspired by the needs of his patients, Jakub Tolar is a physician scientist who has pioneered new therapies for children with otherwise lethal disorders. He is now viewed as one ofthe world’s experts in the treatment of epidermolysis bullosa, an extremely painful skin blistering disorder that often leads to death. He has also come to be a University advocate for new areas of medical science, such as genome editing and regenerative medicine.


Distinguished McKnight University Professors named in previous years

This list only includes those remaining at the University of Minnesota.

  • David A. Andow, Entomology — Ecological and evolutionary principles in environmental sciences
  • Lydia Artymiw, Music — Piano performance
  • George Barany, Chemistry — Peptide synthesis
  • Frank S. Bates, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science — Synthesized molecular polymer structures
  • Saif Benjaafar, Mechanical Engineering — Science and engineering of supply chain operations
  • Judith Berman, Genetics, Cell Biology & Development — Model and pathogenic yeasts
  • David Bernlohr, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics — Lipid metabolism
  • John C. Bischof, Mechanical Engineering — Biomaterial cryopreservation and thermal therapies
  • Graham V. Candler, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics — Computational hypersonic fluid dynamics
  • Bernardo Cockburn, Mathematics — Computational mathematics
  • Bianca M. Conti-Fine, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics — Molecular immunology
  • Christopher J. Cramer, Chemistry — Computational chemistry
  • Jeffrey J. Derby, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science — Computational models of crystal growth
  • Mark D.Distefano, Chemistry — Protein chemistry for biotechnology and health applications
  • R. Lawrence Edwards, Geology & Geophysics — Climate change in the earth’s recent past
  • Ann M. Fallon, Entomology — Insect molecular biology
  • Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, Civil Engineering — Hydrologic science
  • Patricia A. Frazier, Psychology Coping with traumatic life events
  • John Freeman, Political Science — Economic growth and redistribution of wealth
  • C. Daniel Frisbie, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science Materials and Process Design for Flexible, Next Generation Electronics
  • Laura Gagliardi, Chemistry — Theoretical modeling of fundamental chemical and physical processes relevant to energy and sustainability
  • Paul Glewwe, Applied Economics — Impact of government policies on education, child nutrition, poverty and inequality in developing countries
  • Megan Gunnar, Child Development — Stress hormones and human development
  • Patricia Hampl, English — Writings of fiction, memoirs, essays, and poetry
  • Jill E. Hasday, Law— Family Law Reimagined
  • Bin He, Biomedical Engineering — Biomedical imaging and neuroengineering
  • Marc A. Hillmyer, Chemistry Nanostructured polymers for the environment
  • Marc M. Hirschmann, Geology & Geophysics — High-pressure experimental studies of partial melting of the mantle and deep-earth volatile cycles
  • Wei-Shou Hu, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science — Cell culture engineering
  • William G. Iacono, Psychology — Biological markers for schizophrenia
  • Richard D. James, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics — Mechanical behavior of solid phase matter
  • Marc K. Jenkins, Microbiology — Immunology
  • Timothy J. Kehoe, Economics — General economic equilibrium analysis
  • Joseph A. Konstan, Computer Science & Engineering — Human-computer interaction
  • Uwe R. Kortshagen, Mechanical Engineering — Plasma research
  • Robert F. Krueger, Psychology — Reducing the burden of mental disorder through data-based classification research
  • Gordon E. Legge, Psychology — Psychology of vision, perception, and reading
  • Chris Leighton, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science— Electronic and magnetic properties of novel materials
  • Timothy P. Lodge, Chemistry — Experimental physical chemistry/polymer science
  • Ann S. Masten, Child Development — Resilience in children at risk
  • Gary J. Muehlbauer, Agronomy & Plant Genetics; Plant Biology — Genomics applied to studying plant function and agricultural productivity
  • Claudia Neuhauser, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior — Research at the interface of mathematics and biology
  • Eric A. Newman, Neuroscience — Functions of glial cells in the brain
  • Keith A. Olive, Physics & Astronomy — Cosmological astrophysics and the nature of the universe
  • S. Douglas Olson, Classical & Near Eastern Studies — Ancient Greek literature
  • Deniz S. Ones, Psychology — Measuring psychological characteristics for employment
  • Andrew J. Oxenham, Psychology; Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery — Fundamental and translational contributions to understanding human hearing and disorders
  • Craig Packer, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior — Behavior of African lions
  • Nikos Papanikolopoulos, Computer Science & Engineering — Robotics and automation
  • Keshab K. Parhi, Electrical & Computer Engineering — Very Large Scale Integration design
  • David Y. H. Pui, Mechanical Engineering — Aerosol science
  • A. David Redish, Neuroscience— Reading the mind within the brain to access mammalian decision-making processes and vulnerabilities
  • Peter B. Reich, Forest Resources — Forest and grassland ecology
  • Victor Reiner, Mathematics — Algebraic combinatorics
  • Steven Ruggles, History — Historical family demography
  • C. Ford Runge, Applied Economics — Agricultural policy analysis and the economics of trade
  • Michael J. Sadowsky, Soil, Water & Climate — Environmental microbiology
  • David Samuels, Political Science Sources of good government: Why new democracies are established and how they represent voters' concerns
  • Sachin S. Sapatnekar, Electrical & Computer Engineering — Computer-aided design of integrated circuits
  • Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics Designer microorganisms for drug discovery and biotechnology
  • Shashi Shekhar, Computer Science & Engineering — Computational structure of large spatial databases
  • J. Ilja Siepmann, Chemistry — Molecular simulation of complex chemical systems and processes
  • Marla Spivak, Entomology — Honeybee behavior
  • Andreas Stein, Chemistry — Synthesis of porous materials and nanostructures
  • Vladimír Sverak, Mathematics — Pure and applied mathematics
  • G. David Tilman, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior — Biodiversity and the well-being of ecosystems
  • William B. Tolman, Chemistry — Bioinorganic chemistry
  • Robert T. Tranquillo, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science — Biomedical engineering
  • Christopher Uggen, Sociology — The effect of life course transitions on crime and deviance
  • Lawrence P. Wackett, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics — Biocatalysis and biodegradation
  • Jian-Ping Wang, Electrical & Computer Engineering — Magnetic materials and sSpintronic devices for information storage and computing and molecular diagnostics
  • John Watkins, English — Early modern literature and the transformation of monarchy
  • Li-Na Wei, Pharmacology — Vitamin A and gene regulation
  • George D. Weiblen, Plant Biology— Biodiversity discovery on the rainforest frontier
  • Barbara Young Welke, History; Law — Law and the conditions of freedom in everyday life
  • Donna L. Whitney, Geology & Geophysics Geo-materials research and applications to continental tectonics
  • Nevin D. Young, Plant Pathology — Legume genetics and genomics/bioinformatics
  • Zhi-Li Zhang, Computer Science & Engineering — Computer networking and internet development: packet scheduling, video delivery, reliable network routing, and network management