McKnight land grant awards announced

Nobel prize winners have to start somewhere. For 11 junior faculty members at the University of Minnesota, the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship could be their first step. Each year, a handful of junior faculty members showing potential to make important contributions to their fields are chosen for a two-year professorship and $72,000 research grant. The recipientsâÄô research must be significant and their achievements must be original, imaginative and innovative âÄî all of which could lead to greater awards in the future. Nobel prize winners usually receive numerous awards, often starting with awards similar to the McKnight professorship, said Gayla Marty, spokeswoman for the University Graduate School, which administers the University-wide competition with the office of the senior vice president of academic affairs and provost. âÄúItâÄôs like the beginning of the awards pipeline,âÄù Marty said. Recipients of the award typically go on to win prestigious awards, both inside and outside of the University, Faculty Research and Graduate Fellowships Director Myrna Smith said. âÄúThey really are among our stars if you look back over that list to [when the program started in] 1987,âÄù she said. According to Smith, the 2009-2011 recipients are no exception. The recipients are researching everything from hobbit-like fossils to materials that âÄúrememberâÄù their shapes. The recipients are confident that the McKnight professorship and grant is going to significantly impact their research by giving them time and flexibility. Philosophy professor Alan Love, who was an award recipient for this cycle, said he is excited to take advantage of the opportunity to take a year-long teaching leave, while recipient Martin Saar, from the Department of Geology and Geophysics, said he will take advantage of the âÄúflexibilityâÄù the program offers. âÄúWith this money there is basically no strings attached,âÄù Saar said. Since the McKnight grant has no guidelines, an unusual grant perk, recipients are allowed to take higher risks which can yield greater results, Saar and the grants administers said. Chemistry professor Christy Haynes, a 2007-2009 winner, is proof that taking a risk with the grant money can be beneficial. Haynes received a 2008 New Innovator Award from the National institutes of Health after she took a risk with the money and extra time she was given through the McKnight grant, she said. But extra time and money isnâÄôt the only perk recipients are hoping for âÄî it could also make a huge difference in their chances for tenure. Recent recipient Ryan Elliott, an aerospace engineering and mechanics professor, hopes the award will help his odds of receiving tenure. âÄúEvery little bit of spare time that I get to work harder and be able to produce more publications, graduate more students, that type of thing, makes my tenure case look better,âÄù Elliott said. Smith, who works closely with the 10-person committee who chooses the winners, said most recipients go on to receive tenure.

The 2009-2011 recipients are:

Arindam Banerjee, computer science and engineering Large scale data clustering for modern applications Giancarlo Casale, history Curiosity and intolerance: the paradox of early modernity Ryan Elliott, aerospace engineering and mechanics Discovery, design and characterization of intelligent materials via atomic level simulation Tian He, computer science and engineering Energy management for wireless senor networks Alan Love, philosophy Understanding biological reasoning: concepts, explanations and interdisciplinary. Julian Marshall, civil engineering Urban sustainability engineering: designing cities for human health and the environment Steven Matthews, history-UMND Theology and science in the precursors of the Royal Society Kieran McNulty, anthropology Interpreting hominoid evolution from paleoecological geometric morphometric perspectives Jennifer Powers, ecology, evolution and behavior Carbon cycling and conservation âÄî making explicit linkages in the tropical dry forest of Cost Rica Martin Saar, geology and geophysics Geophysical fluid dynamics: from groundwater flow to volcanic eruptions Sangwon Suh, bioproducts and biosytems engineering Understanding the materials and energy metabolism of coupled human-nature complexity