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Six Urbana campus faculty members named University Scholars

Jeff Unger, News Bureau


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Six faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been chosen to be University Scholars. The program recognizes excellence while helping to identify and retain the university’s most talented teachers, scholars and researchers. The scholars from the Urbana campus will be recognized during a reception and dinner tonight (Feb. 8) at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana.

Now in its 19th 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.

“A University Scholar designation is the highest honor we bestow upon our young faculty,” said Chet Gardner, vice president for academic affairs for the university. “This recognition is especially meaningful since recipients are nominated and selected by their peers. These awards not only acknowledge the superb accomplishments of the recipients, but also symbolize the university’s commitment to foster outstanding people and their work.”

Since the program began in 1985, 423 scholars have been named and about $9.6 million has been awarded to support their teaching and research. Funding for the program comes from private gifts to the Advancement Fund of the University of Illinois.

The Urbana scholars, their departments and a summary of their expertise, according to the nominating documentation:

• Sarita V. Adve, computer science. A member of the faculty in the department of computer science since 1999, Adve is a researcher in computer architecture, the field within computer science concerned with designing computer hardware and its interface with the reset of the computer system. Adve has created an innovative power-efficient design for computer systems running multimedia and data-centric applications.

Adve also has developed a model of computer memory that is the most precise in the field. She has integrated her concepts into a software tool that provides a way of simulating aspects of computer architecture. The software has been licensed by more than 1,000 users. Adve incorporates her research into classes, including using her simulator in course assignments.

• Dale E. Brashers, speech communication. Brashers, a member of the department of speech communication since 1998, focuses his research on health communication – how people manage and cope with illness. He has concentrated on the experience of persons living with HIV/AIDS. He is now conducting experiments in outpatient clinics to test interventions that teach newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS patients a range of communication skills for better managing their changing informational and societal needs over the trajectory of their illness. He has received numerous teaching awards throughout his career.

• Akira Chiba, cell and structural biology. A professor in the cell and structural biology department since 1995, Chiba has pioneered a field examining how neuronal dendrites are guided to targets. He has led recent hiring efforts in developmental biology and developed innovative undergraduate courses in which cutting-edge research in development neurobiology is introduced and discussed. Chiba’s research area is in the field of Drosophila developmental neurobiology, specifically how developing neurons find their target connections. His interactive lectures are enhanced by his development of Web-based materials.

• Anne D. Hedeman, School of Art and Design. A scholar of international stature and an award-winning teacher, Hedeman has focused her research on manuscript production in medieval France, in particular on the relationship between text and message – that is, how the illuminations affectt the message of the text.

For Hedeman’s current project, concerning early French humanism and visual culture, she was invited to be a Scholar in Residence at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2003. An engaging lecturer, Hedeman has been listed annually since 1988 on the published roster of excellent teachers.

• Madhu Khanna, agricultural and consumer economics. With 25 peer-reviewed articles to her credit, Khanna is among the top few environmental economics scholars of her generation. She studies corporate environmental behavior, technology adoption and agro-environmental policy. Three of Khanna’s graduate students have won the outstanding thesis/disseration award in the department; one of them also won top honors from the American Agricultural Economics Association. Many of her publications are co-written with current students, an uncommon occurrence in economics. In 2003, she was awarded the Hughes Teaching Enhancement Award by the department and selected as a member of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Academy of Teaching Excellence.

• Wilfred A. van der Donk, chemistry. Since joining the U. of I. faculty in 1997, van der Donk has established a broad and widely recognized research program that encompasses chemically intriguing and important problems in mechanistic enzymology. One of his most widely noted projects is his study of how the body synthesizes a certain molecule called prostaglandin H2. The prostaglandins are molecules involved in the body’s cardiovascular and inflammation response systems; aspiring and other anti-fever and anti-inflammation drugs work because they inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins. Perhaps his most ambitious project is the biosynthesis of lantibiotics, the only antibiotics toward which gram-positive bacteria have so far been unable to develop resistance. His teaching record is exemplary: His evaluations by his students were the highest ever received by any teacher of Chemistry 109 over the past 12 years (the extent of the department’s records). He has received a Teaching Award from the School of Chemical Sciences – given to two faculty members each year.