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McKnight Land-Grant Professorship

The goal of the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship Program is to advance the careers of new assistant professors at a crucial point in their professional lives. The designation of “McKnight Land-Grant Professor” is held by recipients for a two-year period.

2019-2021 McKnight Land-Grant Professors

  • Emilyn Uy Alejandro

    Emilyn Uy Alejandro

    Integrative Biology & Physiology
    Medical School

    Fetal origins of health and disease: How the first nine months shape your whole life

    Type 2 diabetes is the most common chronic disease, but the search for causes and preventative treatment has largely failed. To prevent diabetes, Emilyn Alejandro’s team combines integrative approaches to study the novel role of nutrient-sensor proteins in the placenta and pancreas, to ultimately predict individuals who are at risk for diabetes and improve clinical interventions for existing patients. The team is shedding new light on the fetal origins of pancreatic- β-cell dysfunction, obesity and diabetes.

  • Nicole E. Basta

    Nicole E. Basta

    Epidemiology & Community Health
    School of Public Health

    Protecting individuals and communities: Maximizing the impact of vaccines to prevent deadly infectious diseases

    Vaccines are among the most successful prevention strategies. Yet, worldwide, hundreds of millions suffer and many die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Nicole Basta generates novel data under challenging conditions to maximize the effectiveness of vaccines and the impact of vaccination programs. She combines methods from epidemiology, immunology, and ecology to evaluate immune responses to vaccines and to increase public confidence in, and global access to, life-saving vaccines. Her research directly guides infectious disease prevention policies.

  • Gabriel Chan

    Gabriel Chan

    Humphrey School of Public Affairs

    Advancing innovation policy for climate change mitigation and energy transition

    Innovation policy to unlock structural change in energy systems will be required to address global climate change. Gabriel Chan applies interdisciplinary methods to study energy and climate policies in diverse contexts, from Minnesota to the United Nations. His research seeks to understand the dynamics of energy innovation organizations, the potential and limitation of transnational institutions to address climate change, and the possibilities for incorporating equity and democratic norms into energy transitions.

  • Lorenzo Fabbri

    Lorenzo Fabbri

    French & Italian
    College of Liberal Arts

    The global rise of libertarian fascism and the transnational practices of resistance

    Why do “good people”—perfectly sane and decent folks who find no pleasure in afflicting pain or living in hate or ignorance—collaborate with discrimination, white supremacy, voter suppression, anti-Semitism, and violence? Which cultural phantasies and media discourses are behind their choices? Lorenzo Fabbri proposes to answer these questions in a book analyzing the forms of media and the affective structures fueling current neo-fascist tendencies in Italy and United States. 

  • Jessica Gordon-Roth

    Jessica Gordon-Roth

    College of Liberal Arts

    Expanding the canon and diversifying the field of philosophy

    Philosophy remains alarmingly homogenous. There is a renewed effort to expand the philosophical canon and diversify the field, however there has been very little discussion of how we ought to proceed when it comes to these projects. In her original research, Jessica Gordon-Roth works to identify patterns in scholarship which may be hindering our efforts. The aim is to provide an innovative conceptual framework which can aid philosophy as it works to expand and diversify.

  • Juliana Hu Pegues

    Juliana Hu Pegues

    American Indian Studies
    College of Liberal Arts

    Settler feminism: American foundations and alternate relations

    This book project examines the role of colonialism as an embedded and elemental feature of American feminism, particularly how romanticized notions of Indigenous women and societies are imagined and deployed, from the suffragists to reiterations in the second-wave feminism of the 1970s through to the present. In contrast to this history, Juliana Hu Pegues forwards an alternative genealogy of feminist solidarities, articulated in the scholarly, creative, and political alliances of Indigenous and women-of-color feminists.

  • Soheil Mohajer

    Soheil Mohajer

    Electrical & Computer Engineering
    College of Science & Engineering

    Challenges in distributed systems for big data analysis

    Soheil Mohajer develops technologies for storage, transmission, and processing of massive amounts of data in a distributed fashion. The proposed solutions are formed by networking together a large number of small entities to exploit the ubiquity of small, inexpensive, but potentially not reliable storage and computation units. The scope of this research spans from mathematical analysis and understanding of the barriers and limits, to developing fast and reliable algorithms to benefit from distributed architectures.

  • Vlad S. Pribiag

    Vlad S. Pribiag

    Physics & Astronomy
    College of Science & Engineering

    Novel low-dimensional quantum materials and devices for information processing

    The ongoing miniaturization of conventional semiconductor-based computers rapidly approaches fundamental limits dictated by the laws of quantum mechanics. To transcend these limitations and develop more powerful computers, it is paramount to consider new classes of materials, which fully embrace the richness of quantum mechanics. The Pribiag lab applies innovative nanofabrication and low-temperature measurement techniques to uncover the electronic properties of new low-dimensional material systems and to develop quantum devices that could enable future computing paradigms.

  • Michael J. Smanski

    Michael J. Smanski

    Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
    College of Biological Sciences

    Re-programming living systems for applications in medicine, agriculture, and the environment

    The Smanski group works on diverse projects that share a common theme of leveraging technologies in DNA synthesis/assembly (i.e. writing and composing genetic information) to reprogram living systems. Recently, they have successfully engineered bacteria to produce a potent neuroprotective drug and engineered mammalian cells to produce therapeutic proteins. In parallel, they have  invented and demonstrated a new approach for creating effective and safe bio-pesticides that will control populations of insect pests, disease vectors, and invasive species.

  • Scott Vrieze

    Scott Vrieze

    College of Liberal Arts

    Nature and nurture in addiction

    Addictive behaviors are major sources of preventable death caused by genetic factors and environmental circumstance. Dr. Vrieze studies such factors in order to identify causal mechanisms in the development of addiction, with the ultimate goal of designing interventions based on this causal understanding. His laboratory uses cutting edge genomic tools and rigorous experimental design to discover genes associated with addiction, and characterize the biological and social mechanisms by which addictive drugs act.

2018-2020 McKnight Land-Grant Professors

  • Yaniv Brandvain

    Mehmet Akçakaya

    Electrical & Computer Engineering
    College of Science & Engineering

    Transforming healthcare and biomedical sciences with fast high-precision Magnetic Resonance Imaging

    Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive and radiation-free medical imaging technology that has found immense utility in the diagnosis of numerous diseases and biomedical research, for instance in understanding the human brain. Despite its advantages, MRI still faces major challenges in acquisition duration, necessitating trade-offs in spatial and temporal resolutions. Mehmet’s research develops transformative new methods for fast high-precision MRI to enable the visualization of structures that cannot be characterized with current technology.

  • Elaine Auyoung

    Elaine Auyoung

    College of Liberal Arts

    How stories fit the mind: The human scale of narrative design

    Elaine Auyoung uses cognitive research on reading to uncover the relationship between narrative technique and literary experience. Her current book project explores and illuminates cognitive biases that have shaped longstanding narrative conventions. By demonstrating how the stories we tell ourselves can delimit our capacity to understand the world, this project seeks to cultivate broader critical awareness about the habits of mind that hinder us from comprehending and addressing global challenges.

  • Ran Blekhman

    Ran Blekhman

    Genetics, Cell Biology & Development
    College of Biological Sciences

    Using genomics to understand how the microbiome impacts human health

    The microbial communities that colonize the human body are involved in many human diseases. Since the same diseases are also affected by human genes, characterizing the interplay between the microbiome and human genetics is central to understanding human biology and disease. Ran Blekhman utilizes high-throughput genomic technologies and advanced analytical approaches to integrate human and microbiome genomic big data, with the goal of understanding how the  microbiome affects disease and developing microbiome-based therapies.

  • Fillippo Coletti

    Filippo Coletti

    Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics
    College of Science & Engineering

    Transport of airborne particles inside our lungs and around us

    Respiratory disease is the second leading cause of death worldwide, and is often initiated by the exposure to airborne pollutants. Understanding how microscopic particles travel in air and inside our airways is therefore of paramount importance. Filippo Coletti uses high-speed laser imaging to track suspended particles, and medical imaging to follow their path in 3D printed replicas of human lungs. This is shedding new light on how air quality impacts our health.

  • Katharine Gerbner

    Katharine Gerbner

    College of Liberal Arts

    Constructing religion, defining crime: Slavery, power, and belief

    Religious freedom is one of the founding principles of American democracy. But modern ideas about religion and freedom emerged within a colonial slave society. As my research shows, under the institution of slavery, some religious practices were deemed legitimate while others were criminalized. Recognizing the complex dynamic between race, belief, and danger shows that we must examine the history of slavery in order to understand the meaning of religion and the concept of religious freedom.

  • Esther Krook-Magnuson

    Esther Krook-Magnuson

    Medical School

    Understanding and harnessing the strength of neuronal diversity through selective neuromodulation

    The brain is composed of circuits, elegantly connected and displaying diversity in their elements. Dr. Krook-Magnuson’s research uses cutting-edge techniques to improve our understanding of neuronal connectivity and diversity in health and disease, and to then use this information to design intervention strategies for neurological disorders, including epilepsy.

  • G.-H. Crystal Ng

    G.-H. Crystal Ng

    Earth Sciences
    College of Science & Engineering

    Integrated hydrological sciences to prepare society for local and global change

    The interaction of freshwater systems with biogeochemical cycling, climate, and vegetation has a profound effect on local to global water resources and security. Ng employs computational models that connect underground water-system dynamics with environmental factors and she develops novel statistical approaches to merge models with observations, generating societally-relevant predictions. Ng investigates sulfur cycling in wetlands, social-biophysical perspectives on wild rice aquatic habitats, sources and consequences of arsenic contamination, and eco-hydrological modeling.

  • Byron A. Steinman

    Byron A. Steinman

    Earth & Environmental Sciences and Large Lakes Observatory
    Swenson College of Science & Engineering, University of Minnesota Duluth

    Investigating the patterns, drivers, and uncertainties of climate change using geological archives, models, and observations

    Byron Steinman investigates climate/environmental change through the development of sediment based paleoclimate records and the analysis of observational and model data. His research group is focused on producing a broad spatiotemporal perspective on terrestrial climate change and assessing the influence of internal processes (e.g. El Niño) that drive observed patterns of climate variability. He is principally focused on improving methods for identifying climate signals in observational data and refining interpretations of paleoclimate records.

  • Ian A. Tonks

    Ian A. Tonks

    College of Science & Engineering

    Enabling sustainable chemistry through catalysis with Earth-abundant metals

    Resource scarcity and environmental pollution are significant challenges facing society. Developing new processes that utilize renewable chemical feedstocks and environmentally benign reagents is of paramount importance to overcoming them. The Tonks group is creating organometallic catalysts (molecules that promote or accelerate chemical reactions) based on earth-abundant, nontoxic metals like titanium. These are used in reactions with renewable feedstocks such as biomass (corn, switchgrass) and carbon dioxide to make complex molecules such as pharmaceuticals and plastics.

2017-2019 McKnight Land-Grant Professors

  • Yaniv Brandvain

    Yaniv Brandvain

    Plant & Microbial Biology
    College of Biological Sciences

    The origin, distribution, and maintenance of plant diversity

    That we observe a diverse collection of distinct types of plants (i.e. “species”) rather than a single plant type reflects historical speciation events repeated many times over. But how does speciation occur? And how are nascent species maintained? To answer these questions, Yaniv Brandvain combines theoretical and empirical approaches to characterize, predict, and interpret patterns of genomic variation, interspecific reproductive barriers, species range overlap, reproductive modes, and other key plant traits.

  • Sairaj V. Dhople

    Sairaj V. Dhople

    Electrical & Computer Engineering
    College of Science and Engineering

    Integrating Renewable Energy Resources into the Electric Power System

    Sairaj Dhople develops technologies to systematically integrate renewable resources into the electric power system. At the systems level, this involves formulating algorithms to optimally integrate and operate renewable resources in the power system. At the circuit level, the focus is on designing circuit interfaces between the renewable resources and the electric grid. The unified circuits-to-systems viewpoint is critical to engineer energy technologies that emphasize increased renewable integration, sustainable capacity expansion, and improved electricity access.

  • Cari Dutcher

    Cari Dutcher

    Mechanical Engineering
    College of Science and Engineering

    Understanding Atmospheric Aerosol Particles through Models, Mimics, and Microfluidics

    Suspensions of tiny particulate matter, called aerosols, are ubiquitous in the atmosphere, and have key implications for our health, environment, and climate. However, there remains a great deal of uncertainty concerning aerosol particle formation processes and ambient properties, since each particle is a highly complex microenvironment. Cari Dutcher’s research aims at developing and integrating analytic advances in thermodynamic modeling with experimental advances in microscale transport phenomena, towards improved understanding of the formation and fate of aerosols in the atmosphere.

  • Vivian E. Ferry

    Vivian E. Ferry

    Chemical Engineering & Materials Science
    College of Science and Engineering

    Creating New Optical Materials for Application in Photovoltaics and Optoelectronic Devices

    Optical metamaterials are a new class of materials formed from the systematic and subwavelength arrangement of nanostructures to guide, confine, and bend light in nanoscale dimensions. Vivian Ferry uses techniques of synthesis, optical characterization, and modeling to understand how light interacts with these tailored metallic and oxide nanostructures, to control properties such as light absorption, luminescence, and polarization state, and to ultimately design optical metamaterials for application in solar energy conversion and optoelectronic devices.

  • Renee R. Frontiera

    Renee R. Frontiera

    College of Science and Engineering

    Probing Chemistry in Real Time at Nanometer Length Scales Using Innovative Spectroscopic Techniques

    The Frontiera lab develops and applies novel spectroscopic techniques to probe chemical reaction dynamics on nanometer length scales. Most current microscopies are restricted by the optical diffraction limit to dimensions much larger than a molecule, which is problematic for imaging processes in biological cells and photovoltaic devices. By developing new techniques  with nanometer spatial resolution, the Frontiera lab’s research is uncovering how local environments affect functions like pharmaceutical binding, cellular signaling, and solar cell performance.

  • Bernadette T. Gillick

    Bernadette T. Gillick

    Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
    Medical School

    Discovery of Novel Treatments for Childhood Stroke and Resultant Cerebral Palsy

    Childhood stroke impacts activity and participation in daily life. Current treatments, though costly and time-intensive, have only minimal effects on improving function. Integrating rehabilitation and neuroscience domains, Bernadette Gillick’s lab investigates new treatments combining non-surgical brain stimulation and advanced forms of rehabilitation to minimize the impact of the stroke injury while improving function. Translating these investigations, her goal is to improve the lives of children with stroke and resultant cerebral palsy, for a lifetime.

  • Candice N. Hirsch

    Candice N. Hirsch

    Agronomy & Plant Genetics
    College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Sciences

    Translating Big Data into Improved Crop Performance in Agricultural Systems

    We are facing the challenge of needing to produce more food on less land. We have the added challenge that every year there are increasingly more extreme environment conditions that threaten crop yields. Research in the Hirsch lab integrates big data including high throughput sequencing, high throughput phenotyping, and extensive environmental measurements with the end goal of produce more food on less land while mitigating risk to farmers associated with environmental conditions.

  • Robert B. Nichols

    Political Science
    College of Liberal Arts

    Land, Conflict, and Indigenous Dispossession in North America

    In recent decades, conflicts over land-use in North America have accelerated and intensified. These disputes bring together a complex set of concerns regarding energy, the environment, labor and security, but perhaps most interestingly, have also sparked a new wave of Native American political mobilization. Robert Nichols investigates these conflicts by situating them in a longer historical lineage, asking: “How has the historical development of Anglo-American property relations come to inflect and inform contemporary struggles over land? How has a history of colonization shaped understandings of such key concepts as property, expropriation, eminent domain, and dispossession? How can the recovery of a more complex and plural set of histories offer resources for reframing and resolving current conflicts?”

  • Lana Yarosh

    Computer Science & Engineering
    College of Science and Engineering

    Supporting Social Connectedness with Novel Computing Technologies

    Social isolation is a critical challenge for mental health and wellbeing, amplifying depression, substance use disorders, and even mortality. Lana Yarosh investigates how computing technologies can help by combining human-centered investigations with the design of novel computing technologies. She designs, builds, and deploys technologies to support social connectedness in critical contexts, including parent-child separation in divorced families, intergenerational mentorship between community elders and children, and peer support communities for recovery from substance use disorders.

2016-2018 McKnight Land-Grant Professors

  • Xiang Cheng

    Xiang Cheng

    Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
    College of Science and Engineering

    Engineering Novel Soft Materials with Controllable Flow Properties

    Soft materials are a broad class of condensed matter, which has important technological applications and forms the basis of most biological systems. Xiang Cheng studies the physics of soft materials in experiments, with a special emphasis on the flow behaviors of particle suspensions and polymeric fluids. Using state-of-the-art imaging techniques including confocal microscopy, high-speed photography and holography, he investigates the structural origin of soft material flows and aims to design complex fluids with controllable fluid properties.

  • Meggan Craft

    Meggan Craft

    Veterinary Population Medicine
    College of Veterinary Medicine

    Understanding and Controlling the Spread of Disease Within and Between Animal Populations

    The spread of infectious disease spread in human and animal populations is of growing concern. However, disease dynamics in complex ecological systems are often challenging to study. Mathematical models allow for virtual experiments not otherwise feasible in the real world. Meggan Craft’s research integrates field-based empirical data with theoretical models to ultimately devise more effective disease control strategies. This research has beneficial applications for animals of conservation concern, domestic animals, food security, and public health.

  • Jed Elison

    Jed T. Elison

    Institute of Child Development
    College of Education and Human Development

    A Social Neuroscience Approach to Typical and Atypical Development

    Jed Elison is advancing an interdisciplinary program of research, situated at the intersection of infant social cognition, the development of the social brain, and the emergence of clinically impairing behaviors during the toddler and preschool-age periods. Much of his work focuses on identifying neural biomarkers of autism prior to the overt manifestation of the disorder, a goal that will foster new approaches for strategic prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders.

  • Emma Goldberg

    Emma Goldberg

    Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior
    College of Biological Sciences

    Unraveling the Evolutionary Mysteries of Plant Reproduction and Biogeography

    A central challenge in evolutionary biology is understanding how processes in the distant past have shaped the patterns observed today. How do the diverse reproductive strategies found in flowering plants affect speciation and extinction? How are the geographic distributions of species shaped by the physical environment and other species? Emma Goldberg's work addresses these questions by developing computational tools to analyze the evolutionary relationships among species, and mathematical models of adaptation and competition.

  • Meggan Craft

    Jiarong Hong

    Mechanical Engineering
    College of Science and Engineering

    Understanding Fundamental Flow Physics with Innovative Imaging Techniques for Energy and Transportation Applications

    Fluid flow phenomena occur over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales across different disciplines in science and engineering. However, current flow diagnostic tools are insufficient to provide key measurements needed to address a number of basic problems in the field of fluid dynamics. Jiarong Hong’s research focuses on developing innovative flow imaging techniques to understand the fundamental physics involved in complex fluid behaviors for practical applications in renewable energy and high speed transportation.

  • Neha Jain

    Neha Jain

    Law School
    University of Minnesota Twin Cities

    Leadership Crimes: Accounting for Mass Atrocity

    Who should be held responsible for mass atrocity? International criminal courts typically focus on prosecuting senior leaders, who are generally far from the physical scene of the crimes and remote from the victims who experience them, leaving other alleged perpetrators to domestic accountability processes. Does the failure to prosecute lower level offenders distort historical and political reality, betray victim expectations, and defeat the possibility of transitional justice? Neha Jain examines whether accountability for international crimes can be individualized and if senior leaders should be the dominant focus of responsibility mechanisms at the international level.

  • Barry Kudrowitz

    Barry Kudrowitz

    Design, Housing, and Apparel
    College of Design

    Understanding and Facilitating Creativity

    Creativity is the current battleground for economic competitiveness. It is for this reason that Barry Kudrowitz seeks to understand how we evaluate and teach creativity. Kudrowitz's research involves the assessment of practices used in team-based idea generation and creativity testing. A focus of this effort is in exploring how play and humor can be used to fuel innovation in both industry and academia.

  • William C.K. Pomerantz

    William C. K. Pomerantz

    College of Science and Engineering

    Inspiration from Fluorination: Teflon Proteins for Protein-Protein Interaction Drug Discovery

    The Pomerantz lab seeks to perturb the physical interaction between proteins termed transcription factors by designing small drug-like molecules. These interactions dictate the information flow inside cells that can ultimately lead to disease. Given that transcription factors represent a major class of potential drug targets, new approaches using fluorine, a unique element on the periodic table, could significantly increase the repertoire of drug targets opening up new avenues for drug/probe discovery.

2015-17 McKnight Land-Grant Professors

  • Kate Derickson

    Kate Derickson

    Geography, Environment & Society
    College of Liberal Arts

    Kate Derickson’s work explores and attempts to remediate the uneven capacity of historically marginalized communities to influence urban and environmental futures. The twin contexts of the “urban age” and the Anthropocene produce emergent, critical public policy challenges. The uneven ability of poor communities of color to participate in and influence those decision making processes poses an urgent challenge that is not addressed by popular frameworks like “resilience.” Derickson has proposed “resourcefulness” as an alternative public policy objective.

  • Rafael Fernandes

    Rafael Fernandes

    Physics & Astronomy
    College of Science and Engineering

    Next generation technological applications of solid state physics, incorporating superconductivity and magnetism, will require a deeper understanding of the cooperative interactions between electrons in solids. In these challenging systems, termed quantum materials, the collective behavior of the electrons cannot be derived from the properties of a single electron. Fernandes’ research combines theoretical models and close collaboration with experimental groups to unravel the relationship between the microscopic behavior of these materials and their alluring macroscopic properties.

  • Matthew Johnson

    Matthew Johnson

    Biomedical Engineering
    College of Science and Engineering

    Brain disorders and their treatments remain a significant challenge for society. Bridging engineering and neuroscience disciplines, Matthew Johnson’s research is building a principled understanding for how to target electrical stimulation within the brain to correct abnormal patterns of neural activity. Using these principles, he is creating new neural interface technology to more precisely modulate networks of neurons within the brain to ultimately improve the clinical care of individuals with neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.

  • Dan Knights

    Dan Knights

    Computer Science & Engineering
    College of Science and Engineering

    Trillions of bacteria live in our guts, protecting us from infection and aiding our digestion. An imbalance of these bacteria, called dysbiosis, may contribute to obesity, diabetes, cancer, Crohn’s, and many other diseases, yet each person’s bacterial diversity is so distinct that we cannot easily identify when a microbiome is “unhealthy”. In his research Dan Knights combines expertise in data mining and biology to advance detection and treatment of dysbiosis in obesity and autoimmune diseases.

  • Will Northrop

    Will Northrop

    Mechanical Engineering
    College of Science and Engineering

    Internal combustion engines will continue to be a dominant power source for decades to come; however, their use comes with high environmental cost. Previous research has shown that no advanced fuel, engine technology or catalytic aftertreatment system alone can solve these interconnected challenges. Will Northrop’s research examines the combination of advanced combustion strategies, efficient engine systems, new diagnostic techniques and renewable fuels together in the pursuit of an engine with minimal environmental impact.

  • Erik Redix

    Erik Redix

    American Indian Studies
    College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota Duluth

    Erik Redix’s work investigates the Deluge at Bakweyawaa as an instance of American colonialism in the 20th century. In 1923, the Winter Dam was completed to generate hydroelectricity and created the Chippewa Flowage, a 23,000-acre body of water that devastated the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Reservation in northwest Wisconsin. The creation of the Flowage destroyed cemeteries, roads, wild rice beds, and the community of Bakweyawaa. Throughout the 1910’s the tribe repeatedly voted against the construction of the dam. The creation of the Flowage directly resulted in decades of poverty for the Ojibwe.

  • Emilie Snell-Rood

    Emilie C. Snell-Rood

    Ecology, Evolution & Behavior
    College of Biological Sciences

    Organisms today are faced with unprecedented environmental change – can we predict how they will respond? Emilie Snell-Rood’s research focuses on the ability of organisms to adjust their development and behavior in different environments. Why are some species capable of learning to use diverse environments, while others are more specialized? Snell-Rood’s research focuses on how tradeoffs between learning and reproduction affect how much organisms can invest in learning and similar developmental processes.

  • Kechun Zhang

    Kechun Zhang

    Chemical Engineering & Materials Science
    College of Science and Engineering

    Transforming traditional chemical production methods for a sustainable future is a great challenge. The currently used biorefinery process utilizes food resources and is limited by the metabolic capability of natural microorganisms. To enhance the viability of biomanufacturing, Kechun Zhang is engineering artificial metabolic pathways in bacteria and yeasts for the production of a variety of chemicals, vitamins, and food additives from abundant, inexpensive, and sustainable feedstocks such as corn stove, sugar beet pulp and citrus peel.

2014-2016 McKnight Land-Grant Professors

  • David J. Flannigan

    Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
    College of Science and Engineering

    Materials Science at the Space-Time Limit with Ultrafast Transmission Electron Microscopy

    Current transmission electron microscopes are able to reach sub-atomic spatial resolutions but cannot be used to image dynamic events that occur faster than a few milliseconds. To overcome this, David Flannigan is working to develop a new electron microscopy technology that couples the high-spatial resolutions achievable with electrons with the very short temporal resolutions of ultrafast pulsed laser systems. In this way, the ability to directly visualize femtosecond events occurring at the atomic-scale will be possible.

  • Sarah E. Gollust

    Health Policy and Management
    School of Public Health

    Leveraging Communication Science to Illuminate and Overcome Health Policy Challenges

    Ideally, health research would lead to clear, effective messages and broadly accepted policies promoting health. Often, however, that’s not the case. Sarah Gollust integrates communication science into health policy to analyze the process through which health information is translated into media, shapes public opinion, and affects policymaking. In her assessments of obesity policy, cancer screening, and the Affordable Care Act, Gollust identifies challenges that arise in the translation process,thus informing more effective communication strategies.

  • Christophe Lenglet

    Medical School

    Mapping the Human Brain through Advanced Computational Techniques for Magnetic Resonance Imaging

    Understanding the human brain, in health or disease, remains one of the greatest scientific challenges of the 21st century. Magnetic Resonance Imaging offers the unique opportunity to non-invasively map the connections (i.e. “wiring”) of the brain, and detect possible alterations. However, such complex data requires advanced analysis methods. Christophe Lenglet’s research lies at the crossroads of mathematics, computer science and neuroscience to create the tools which will, ultimately, lead to groundbreaking insights into our brain architecture.

  • Pamela Lutsey

    Epidemiology & Community Health
    School of Public Health

    Identifying Novel and Modifiable Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease

    Pamela Lutsey is a cardiovascular disease epidemiologist whose mission and passion is to identify potentially modifiable factors that influence cardiovascular disease risk, which could ultimately be cost-effectively intervened upon to reduce the burden of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in our nation. She is particularly interested in the role of low serum vitamin D and sleep apnea on the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and has active research in those domains.

  • Francis X. Shen

    Law School
    University of Minnesota

    How Neuroscience Will Transform Law

    Brain science is appearing increasingly in legal and policy arenas. Better understanding of brain function offers great promise -- but also great peril. Francis Shen's work thus delineates the principles by which cognitive neuroscience should (and should not) be embraced by courts and legislatures. Shen uses innovative empirical legal methods to explore how the effective use of neuroscientific evidence can enhance legal doctrine, and also how the premature misuse of such evidence can be detrimental to justice.

  • James D. Van de Ven

    Mechanical Engineering
    College of Science and Engineering

    Innovations in Energy Storage and Conversion with Fluid Power

    James Van de Ven’s research goal is to study innovative solutions for storing and converting hydraulic and pneumatic energy. His energy storage research eases integration of wind and other renewables into the power grid and enables hydraulic hybrid vehicles. His hydraulic energy conversion work enables a new control paradigm where systems are rapidly switched between efficient on and off states. The impact potential is large as 3% of US energy is transmitted by fluid power.

  • Shannon Drysdale Walsh

    Political Science
    University of Minnesota Duluth

    Engendering State Institutions: State Response to Violence against Women in Latin America

    Violence against women is a worldwide problem that is surging in Latin America. Even though many countries have created laws to address this problem, there is variation in how these laws are (or are not) implemented. Shannon Drysdale Walsh compares how five Latin American countries have developed and transformed their justice systems. She proposes a novel theoretical framework explaining how transnational advocacy networks have created and transformed specialized justice system institutions that help protect and provide justice for women on a global scale.

  • Travis Workman

    Asian Languages and Literatures
    College of Liberal Arts

    Melodrama and the Cold War: Ideas and Emotion in Korean Cinemas

    In literature, theater, and cinema, melodrama is a popular mode that uses heightened emotion and sentimentality to present the world as divided between agents of moral goodness and the threat of corruption. Travis Workman’s current research analyzes the melodramatic mode in the cinema cultures on both sides of the Cold War, focusing on the South Korean and North Korean film industries (1945-89). Expanding on his first book on humanism in the Japanese empire, Workman explores the political, social, and humanist ideas of Cold War melodrama, as well as parodies and critiques of its dominant images of a world split in two.

Previous Recipients

2013 —Jake Bailey, Earth Sciences; Jasmine Foo, School of Mathematics; Anika Maria Sophie Hartz, Pharmacy Practice & Pharmaceutical Sciences; Mo Li, Electrical & Computer Engineering; Alice Lovejoy, Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature; Rusen Yang, Mechanical Engineering

2012 —Yingling Fan, Public Affairs; Joshua Feinberg, Earth Sciences; Melissa Gardner, Genetics, Cell Biology & Development; Jason Hill, Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering; Daniel Keefe, Computer Science & Engineering; Dominique Tobbell, Surgery

2011 — Brian Aukema, Entomology; Aditya Bhan, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science; Christopher Hogan, Mechanical Engineering; Chad Myers, Computer Science & Engineering; Chengyan Yue, Horticulture Science & Applied Economics

2010 — Vladas Griskevicius, Marketing & Logistics; Ibrahim Volkan Isler, Computer Science & Engineering; Alex P. Jassen, Classical & Near Eastern Studies; Daniel H. Kaplan, Dermatology; Kenneth H. Kozak, Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation; Vuk Mandic, Physics & Astronomy; Jennifer Jane Marshall, Art History; Dylan B. Millet, Soil, Water & Climate; Yoichiro Mori, Mathematics; John Ohlfest, Pediatrics & Neurosurgery

2009 — Arindam Banerjee, Computer Science & Engineering; Giancarlo Casale, History; Ryan Elliott, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics; Tian He, Computer Science & Engineering; Alan C. Love, Philosophy; Julian Marshall, Civil Engineering; Steven P. Matthews, History-UMD; Kieran McNulty, Anthropology; Jennifer Powers, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior; Martin O. Saar, Geology & Geophysics; Sangwon Suh, Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering

2008 — Taner Akkin, Biomedical Engineering; Alptekin Aksan, Mechanical Engineering; Elizabeth Beaumont, Political Science; Mark A. Bee, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior; Nicholas Hopper, Computer Science & Engineering; Chris H. Kim, Electrical & Computer Engineering; Kirill A. Martemyanov, Pharmacology; Katsumi Matsumoto, Geology & Geophysics; Jason McGrath, Asian Languages & Literatures; Elizabeth J. Wilson, Public Affairs; Michael L. Wilson, Anthropology; Hui Zou, Statistics

2007 — Daniel R. Bond, Microbiology & BioTechnology Institute; Kathleen A. Collins, Political Science; Christy L. Haynes, Chemistry; Karen Ho, Anthropology; Nihar Jindal, Electrical & Computer Engineering; Marta Lewicka, Mathematics; William Schuler, Computer Science & Engineering; Kathleen D. Vohs, Marketing; Christophe M. Wall-Romana, French & Italian; Chun Wang, Biomedical Engineering

2006 — Demoz Gebre-Egziabher, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics; Yongdae Kim, Computer Science & Engineering; Efie Kokkoli, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science; Ronald R. Krebs, Political Science; Angus W. MacDonald, III, Psychology; Steven M. Manson, Geography; Stergios I. Roumeliotis, Computer Science & Engineering; Mark J. Thomas, Neuroscience

2005 — Reuben S. Harris, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics;  Alex Kamenev, Physics & Astronomy;  Dan S. Kaufman, Medicine; Michelle N. Mason, Philosophy; Stuart McLean, Anthropology; Ezra Miller, Mathematics; Randall S. Singer, Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences; T. Andrew Taton, Chemistry; Eric Van Wyk, Computer Science & Engineering; George D. Weiblen, Plant Biology

2004 — Alec T. Habig, Physics/UMD; Heiko O. Jacobs, Electrical & Computer Engineering; Jonathan S. Marchant, Pharmacology; Joachim Mueller, Physics & Astronomy; Aaron David Redish, Neuroscience; J. B. Shank, History; Kathleen M. Thomas, Child Development

2003 — Vinay K. Gidwani, Geography; William M. Gray, Plant Biology; Kathryn J. Kohnert, Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences; Erika Lee, History; Tian-Jun Li, Mathematics; Krishnan Mahesh, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics; Paul G. Mermelstein, Neuroscience; Fernando Porté-Agel, Civil Engineering; Natalia Y. Tretyakova, Medicinal Chemistry

2002 — Paul D. Cannan, English/UMD;  Markus Keel, Mathematics; David J. Odde, Biomedical Engineering; Frank J. Symons, Educational Psychology; Valerie Tiberius, Philosophy; David Treuer, English; Kevin D. Wickman, Pharmacology

2001 — Bruce P. Braun, Geography; Shaul Hanany, Physics & Astronomy; George E. Heimpel, Entomology; Victoria L. Interrante, Computer Science & Engineering; Canan Karatekin, Child Development; Monica Luciana, Psychology; Gary J. Muehlbauer, Agronomy & Plant Genetics; Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics; Yoav Segal, Medicine; Jiaping Wang, Mathematics; Barbara Y. Welke, History

2000 — Sheng He, Psychology; Marc A. Hillmyer, Chemistry; Sarah E. Hobbie, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior; Dihua Jiang, Mathematics; David Largaespada, Genetics, Cell Biology & Development; Richa Nagar, Women's Studies; David J. Samuels, Political Science; Ajay Skaria, History; Zhi-Li Zhang, Computer Science & Engineering

1999 — Paul A. Crowell, Physics & Astronomy; Ray Gonzalez, English; Mats Per Erik Heimdahl, Computer Science & Engineering; Marc Hirschmann, Geology & Geophysics

1998 — C. Daniel Frisbie, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science; Martha Tappen, Anthropology; Donna Whitney, Geology & Geophysics

1997 — John Bischof, Mechanical Engineering; Kristin Hogquist, Laboratory Medicine & Pathology; Andreas Stein, Chemistry

1996 — Victor Reiner, Mathematics; J. Ilja Siepmann, Chemistry

1995 — Prodromos Daoutidis, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science; Susan Mantell, Mechanical Engineering; Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos, Computer Science & Engineering; Carol Shield, Civil Engineering; Marla Spivak, Entomology; John Watkins, English                 

1994 — Christopher Cramer, Chemistry; David Lilja, Electrical & Computer Engineering; Ellen Longmire, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics; Ann Rougvie, Genetics, Cell Biology & Development

1993 — Gary Balas, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics; Andrew Elfenbein, English;  Lorraine Francis, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science;Lisa Norling, History; Jeffrey Simon, Genetics, Cell Biology & Development

1992 — Patricia Frazier, Psychology; Lawrence Jacobs, Political Science; Jean O’Brien-Kehoe, History; Keshab Parhi, Electrical & Computer Engineering; Maria Sera, Child Development; Thomas Shield,  Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics; William Tolman, Chemistry

1991 — Jeffrey Derby, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science; Michal Kobialka, Theatre Arts & Dance; Kathryn Sikkink, Political Science; Stanley Thayer, Pharmacology

1990 — R. Lawrence Edwards, Geology & Geophysics; Yuichi Kubota, Physics & Astronomy; Karen Mesce, Entomology; Mary Porter, Genetics, Cell Biology & Development; Gloria Goodwin Raheja, Anthropology

1989 — Linda Brady, Food Science & Nutrition; James Kakalios, Physics & Astronomy; Nita Krevans, Classical & Near Eastern Studies; Kenneth Leopold, Chemistry; Ellen Messer-Davidow, English; Christian Teyssier, Geology & Geophysics; Robert Tranquillo, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science

1988 — Anath Das, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics; Charles Fletcher, Psychology; William Grove, Psychology; Steven Kass, Chemistry; Ann Masten, Child Development; Ann Waltner, History

1987 — David Bernlohr, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics; Doreen Leopold, Chemistry; David Lipset, Anthropology; Steven Ruggles, History