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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.

2015 Award: Call for Nominations


2014 Distinguished McKnight Professors

Laura Gagliardi
Theoretical modeling of fundamental chemical and physical processes relevant to energy and sustainability

Laura Gagliardi is a theoretical chemist who develops novel theories that elucidate the fundamental behavior of matter. She uses these theories to model chemical processes relevant to the energy needs of modern society. She designs new materials to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and new processes to recycle spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power reactors. Through much collaboration, her predictions inspire new experiments in the chemistry and materials science communities.

Jill Elaine Hasday
Family Law Reimagined

Jill Hasday’s research focuses on family law, antidiscrimination law, constitutional law, and legal history. Her work reveals how judges and legislators repeatedly describe family law in ways that misrepresent the field, misdirect attention away from the actual problems that family law confronts, and misshape the policies that lawmakers pursue. She has published in the Harvard University Press and leading law reviews and is one of the most cited family law scholars in the United States.

Robert F. Krueger
Reducing the Burden of Mental Disorder through Data Based Classification Research

Mental disorders cause enormous suffering and take a major toll on society. There is a tremendous need to describe and diagnose mental disorders accurately, so we can effectively research causes and provide helpful treatments. Krueger has developed a novel data-driven approach to classification. His approach transcends the traditional approach, which is based on political consensus among clinicians. Krueger’s work has influenced national policy and revolutionized how mental disorders are conceptualized throughout the world.

Chris Leighton
Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Electronic and magnetic properties of novel materials

Professor Leighton conducts interdisciplinary research at the interface between Materials Science, Chemistry, and Condensed Matter Physics, seeking to understand electronic and magnetic properties of a broad range of materials. These materials, and the devices built from them, are of interest for applications as diverse as data storage, microelectronics, and solar cells, and for fundamental studies of electrons in solids. His research is internationally recognized, published in leading journals, and has yielded several awards and honors.

A. David Redish
Reading the mind within the brain to access mammalian decision-making processes and vulnerabilities

Our brains take information from the world and use these perceptions, along with information gathered from previous experiences, to decide upon an action. By carefully defining the underlying computations performed in decision-making, it is possible to directly observe ongoing cognitive processes in non-human animals. David Redish works to translate these observations to enhance our understanding of human decision-making processes. Understanding the mechanisms of these decision-making processes allows us to identify and potentially treat their vulnerabilities.

George D. Weiblen
Plant Biology
Biodiversity discovery on the rainforest frontier

Meaningful predictions about the future of life on earth require knowledge of the processes that generate and sustain biological species. Weiblen studies tropical rainforests that support most of the Earth’s species, are threatened by development, and play a vital role in global climate. Weiblen uses DNA analysis to uncover the evolutionary history and ecology of tropical trees, insects, and microbes. Such discovery is needed to conserve an irreplaceable source of materials, medicines, and genetic variation.


Distinguished McKnight University Professors named in prior years

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

David 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 Benjafaar, 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 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 and Materials Science Materials and Process Design for Flexible, Next Generation Electronics

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

Bin He, Biomedical Engineering — Biomedical imaging and neuroengineering

Marc A. Hillmyer, Chemistry Nanostructured polymers for the environment

Marc 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

Gordon E. Legge, Psychology — Psychology of vision, perception, and reading

Timothy P. Lodge, Chemistry — Experimental physical chemistry/polymer science

Ann S. Masten, Child Development — Resilience in children at risk

Gary 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 Ones, Psychology — Measuring psychological characteristics for employment

Andrew Oxenham, Psychology; Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery — Fundamental and translational contributions to understanding human hearing and disorders

Craig Packer, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior — Behavior of African lions

Nikos P. 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

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 and 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 Sverák, 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 and Computer Engineering — Magnetic Materials and Spintronic Devices for Information Storage and Computing and Molecular Diagnostics

John Watkins, English — Early mordern literature and the transformation of monarchy

Li-Na Wei, Pharmacology — Vitamin A and gene regulation

Barbara 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 Dale Young, Plant Pathology — Legume genetics and genomics/bioinformatics

Zhi-Li Zhang, Computer Science and Engineering — Computer networking and internet development: packet scheduling, video delivery, reliable network routing, and network management