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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.

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

Congratulations to the 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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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, Radiology, 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
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