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Six faculty members named University Scholars

Jeff Unger, News Bureau
(217) 333-1085,


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Six faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been chosen to be the 2001-2002 University Scholars. The program recognizes excellence while helping to identify and retain the university’s most talented teachers, scholars and researchers.

Now in its 17th year, the program provides $10,000 to each scholar to use to enhance his or her academic career. The money may be used for travel, equipment, research assistants, books or other purposes. Seven scholars were recognized at the Chicago campus and one at Springfield.

"The University Scholars Program is the premier recognition accorded to faculty at the University of Illinois by their colleagues," said Chet Gardner, vice president for academic affairs for the university. "In honoring these outstanding members of the faculty, we recognize at the same time the highest values of the university."

Since the program began in 1985, 378 scholars have been named and about $8.6 million has been awarded to support their teaching and research. Funding for the program comes from private gifts to the UI Foundation’s Advancement Fund. The Chancellor's Dinner for Academic Excellence honoring the scholars will take place Monday night (Nov. 26) at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana.

The Urbana scholars, their departments and a summary of their expertise:

Douglas H. Beck, physics: An experimental medium-energy (nuclear) physicist, Beck has focused much of his research on the measurement of the parity-violating asymmetry in the scattering of longitudinally polarized electrons from the proton to elucidate the role strange quarks play in the structure of the nucleon.

Beck's work is internationally recognized as among the most important in medium-energy physics. He also has devoted a great deal of time and attention to course development, most recently in Physics 113/114, and sought and received early funding for the Saturday Physics Honors Program, now in its eighth year. The program, a series of lectures on modern aspects of the physical sciences, is held on alternate Saturdays during the fall semester.

Antoinette Burton, history: In the 10 years since she received her doctorate, Burton has written two published monographs, edited several collections of work and written numerous articles and reviews. The first monograph, "Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women and Imperial Culture, 1865-1915," reveals the deep involvement of British feminists in Imperial reform in the test case of India. Her second monograph examines the lives of three Indians in England and shows how their ideas and social reform projects were pieced together from European and non-European contexts. She also has developed innovative courses and is considered an exemplary teacher both by her colleagues and her students.

Paul A. Garber, anthropology: Garber's findings repeatedly have called into question, and at times overturned, longstanding hypotheses about New World monkeys. At stake in his groundbreaking work are major questions in evolutionary biology and biological anthropology: questions about primate morphology and behavior with important consequences for the study of human evolution. He is a co-founder and director of La Suerte and Ometepe biological field stations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, respectively. The stations were the first to conduct successful primate field courses, offerings that are still the most respected, popular courses of their kind in the world. At the UI, he has established the anthropology department as a national leader in human evolutionary studies.

Deborah E. Leckband, chemical engineering: Leckband is a leader in the ever-expanding field of biomolecular engineering. Her research focuses on understanding the biology-material interface and exploiting that knowledge to engineer desired biomolecular and cellular behavior. She is an international leader both in biological force measurements and in the highly interdisciplinary area of "bio-interface science." Her studies of surface-grafted poly ethylene(oxide) were the first to challenge the widely held view that the unusual biocompatability of this medically important polymer is due to its ability to repel proteins and cells in the body. Leckband also has been active in developing new courses of particular interest to the bioengineering community and has a high number of undergraduates carry out senior thesis research in her laboratory.

Jennifer A. Lewis, materials science and engineering: Lewis is internationally recognized for her understanding of colloidal assembly of complex fluids comprising inorganic and organic species. Such systems are important precursors for applications ranging from advanced ceramics to photonic band gap materials to scaffolds for biological implants. She is an associate editor of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society, the leading scholarly publication in her field and was invited by the journal to contribute a review on "Colloidal Processing of Ceramics" that appeared as a cover article. Her teaching is consistently ranked as among the best in the department. She also serves as faculty adviser to the Student Branch of the American Ceramic Society.

Zhi-Pei Liang, electrical and computer engineering: Liang has made pioneering contributions to the development and implementation of state-of-the-art algortihms for creating images from a collection of measurements of physical properties of objects, such as used in magnetic resonance imaging. One of the goals of his work is to improve the resolution of the image using fewer individual measurements, thereby increasing the speed of the measurements and reducing the risk to a patient.

His research has continued to produce many groundbreaking results that have had a profound impact on the field of medical imaging. For example, he developed a unified formula for inverse Radon transforms of arbitrary dimensions, solving a theoretical problem in tomography that had existed since 1917. He is generally acknowledged as being an excellent teacher and has developed three new senior or graduate level courses. Additionally, he has made outstanding contributions to course and curriculum development in his department.