Home > Faculty Awards > McKnight Awards > Distinguished McKnight University Professors

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.

Nomination instructions for the 2016 awards are available here.

2015 Distinguished McKnight Professors

George Heimpel

George E. Heimpel
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
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
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
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