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Six Urbana faculty members named University Scholars

Jeff Unger, News Bureau
217-333-1085

2/13/2006

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 in the lobby of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana.

Now in its 20th 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. Six scholars also 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, 436 scholars have been named and about $9.9 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:

Dorothy Espelage
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Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Dorothy Espelage

 

Dorothy Espelage, educational psychology. A member of the faculty in the department of educational psychology since 1997, Espelage is well known for her research on bullying and aggression, and on eating disorders.

Espelage is the author or a co-author of 31 articles and book chapters on bullying and aggression and has appeared on a number of nationally broadcast programs to talk about her findings. She has been interviewed on CNN, National Public Radio, the Public Broadcasting Service, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Good Morning America,” “The CBS Evening News,” and her work has been discussed in The New York Times, USA Today and other publications.

While at Illinois, Espelage has received nine teaching awards, and her freshman Discovery classes are among the most popular on campus, educational psychology professor Lizanne DeStefano wrote in her nomination of Espelage for University Scholar honors. “She is a phenomenal teacher who inspires our students with her drive and energy,” DeStefano wrote.

Thomas Ginsburg
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Thomas Ginsburg

Thomas B. Ginsburg, law."Since joining the faculty of the College of Law in 2000, Ginsburg has become an internationally known scholar in comparative law and emerging legal institutions, with a particular emphasis in East Asia," Heidi M. Hurd, the dean of the law school, wrote in nominating Ginsburg.
Ginsburg has been invited to give dozens of lectures, conference presentations and workshops at elite universities around the world, including the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard, Northwestern, Virginia, Tel Aviv University, Thammasat University (Thailand) and the University of Tokyo.

Ginsburg also is a "superb and innovative teacher," Hurd wrote. He has developed four courses in the college. Students routinely praise Ginsburg for his energy, insight, brilliance and passion. Last spring, the college nominated him for the Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate and Professional Teaching.

Feng Sheng Hu
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Feng Shen Hu

Feng Sheng Hu, plant biology. Recognized internationally for his research in global change biology and ecosystem science, Hu has extended the traditional use of pollen analysis to unravel the evolution of the climate system and the function of ecosystems.

This new approach earned Hu the prestigious Packard Fellowship and a Center for Advanced Study Fellowship. In one of his publications in Nature, Hu described the climate in the Midwest during the Holocene epoch by virtue of carbon dating and quantifying the pollen in each layer of lake sediment.

An engaging and stimulating teacher, Hu has been a member of the Illinois faculty since 1998. He has introduced about 500 freshmen each year for the past six years to contemporary issues and concepts in ecology. "For a young faculty member, professor Hu has achieved a superior record of accomplishment in research, teaching and service,"” Evan H. DeLucia, professor and head of the plant biology department wrote in nominating Hu.

Nikolaos Sahinidis
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Nikolaos Sahinidis

Nikolaos Sahinidis, chemical and biomolecular engineering. A member of the U. of I. faculty since 1991, Sahindis has made profound contributions to the fields of optimization and crystal structure determination, work that has transformed the practice of optimization across science and engineering. Optimization involves using a merit function to evaluate alternatives and select the best. His fundamental contributions to this field are summarized in a 504-page book he co-wrote. His research contributions have won a great deal of external recognition, including nine National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health awards, five prestigious research prizes and fellowships, and positions on seven editorial boards.

A visionary teacher, Sahindis led the development of the university's master's degree program in bioinformatics, which won approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education in 2004. It is the first U. of I. degree overseen by the Graduate College and to be offered by more than one department.

Susan Schantz
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Susan Schantz

Susan L. Schantz, veterinary biosciences. A professor at Illinois since 1990, Schantz directs her work toward the understanding of the neurobehavioral effects of PCBs, methyl mercury, dioxins and related compounds –– toxicants that frequently make their way into the human diet through the consumption of fish from polluted waters. Her work specifically focuses on the nervous system effects of exposure to these agents during development of the fetus and during aging. In 2004, she wrote five papers that were published in prestigious journals; four of the papers addressed the neuro-toxicological effects of PCBs.

Recently, Schantz developed an interest in studies assessing the impact of dietary estrogens on cognitive function during aging, using animal models to assess the effects of estrogenic components of soy-based dietary supplements on a variety of cognitive functions.

In addition to her work supervising graduate students, Schantz routinely accepts eight to 12 undergraduate students doing research for course credit. She helps each of them devise a project and provides significant personal mentoring.

Scott White
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Scott White

Scott R. White, aerospace engineering. A faculty member at Illinois since 1990, White led research on self-healing polymers and composites that won widespread acclaim around the world and acknowledgment by Popular Science magazine as one of the top 10 scientific innovations in 2001. Well over 170 companies have contacted him seeking licensing, joint development and collaborative research arrangements. His more recent work, on novel fabrication techniques for three-dimensional microvascular networks was published in the journal Nature Materials.

An innovative teacher, White has been one of the most prolific in developing new courses and content in composites, aerospace materials and experimental mechanics. He also initiated the student project called CETAN, with the goal of designing and building the world's fastest human-powered hydrofoil. He has been the sole faculty adviser on the project since its inception in 1998.