University professors win McKnight honors

Michelle Moriarity

If this year’s crop of Distinguished McKnight professors is any indication, then the University is in good academic hands.
Six University professors recently received $100,000 research grants from the University Graduate School after gaining a Distinguished McKnight Professorship. The school annually recognizes mid-career faculty members whose activities have brought academic distinction to the University.
“(Recipients) really have to be of world-class capability,” said Mark Brenner, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School.
The award-winners are honored as Distinguished McKnight University Professors throughout their tenure at the University.
Although the money for the professorship — provided by the McKnight Foundation and permanent University funds — is awarded solely to the individual, Brenner said both the University and the professors are winners.
“I think we’re very pleased,” said Brenner. “It’s made a big difference to the institution and the individuals (who have received the grant) that we can provide these resources.”
Award recipient Steven Smith, a political science professor, will use his grant for research of Russian political institutions. Smith said his study of political change is enhanced when his research needs — such as money and sabbatical leave time — are fulfilled.
“It’s something I’ve been pursuing,” he said. “The McKnight award allows me to pick up the speed.”
For McKnight honoree C. Ford Runge, a professor of applied economics, the award is a welcome addition to a prestigious collection. Runge is also a former Rhodes Scholar and Fulbright Fellow. His publications cover such topics as changes to the economics of common property and public goods.
Other 1998 McKnight winners include: Wei-Shou Hu, a chemical engineering professor whose research includes the collaborative construction of a bioartificial liver system; Richard James, a leading theorist in the mechanical behavior of solid matter and professor in the aerospace engineering department; Charles Nelson, a professor in the Institute of Child Development and authority on childhood development of cognitive skills; and Keith Olive, a professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy.
In order to be eligible for the professorship — initiated by the graduate school in 1996 — faculty members must be nominated by the department in which they have tenure. These nominees are required to have made significant advances in their careers while at the University.
A selection committee composed of senior faculty members reviews the nominations. Selection is based on the nominee’s scholarly achievements, his or her potential for advancement in the field and his or her quality of instruction. Also considered by the committee is the professor’s distinction brought to the University because of the individual’s achievements and his or her contributions to the community.
George Green, Graduate School associate dean, said award recipients use the $100,000 research grant over a five-year period for research assistant salaries, equipment and supplies, sabbatical leave salary, and professional travel.
Recipients must remain at the University for the five years, the time period over which their grant is distributed.