Six faculty earn named professorships


Craig Chandler | University Communications
Rebecca Lai is one of six UNL faculty to earn a named professorship this academic year. She has been named the Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor of Chemistry.

UNL has awarded professorships to six faculty members, who will be recognized at Honors Convocation on April 13.

Faculty who will receive the awards are Alexei Gruverman, physics and astronomy; Jordan Stump, modern languages and literatures; Susan Swearer, educational psychology; Mark Walker, mathematics; Rebecca Lai, chemistry; and Laura White, English.

“It is quite an impressive group of scholars,” said Mary Uhl-Bien, chair of the University Professorships Committee. “They demonstrate how our outstanding professors are bringing international recognition and prestige to the University of Nebraska.”

Four faculty members were named Willa Cather/Charles Bessey professors. The Willa Cather/Charles Bessey professorship honors a full professor with an exceptional record of distinguished scholarship or creative activity. Each winner will pick the Cather or Bessey designation prior to the April 13 Honors Convocation.

- Alexei Gruverman, professor of physics and astronomy joined UNL in 2007 as an associate professor and was promoted to full professor in 2012. He has a highly regarded publication record and is in high demand as a leading speaker in a rapidly growing field of piezoelectric force microscopy. Gruverman’s work has contributed to the raising stature of the UNL physics department through its importance and impact. He is currently the principal investigator on a $315,000 National Science Foundation grant and co-principal investigator on four other continuing grants, including the newly funded Semiconductor Research Corporation Center for Nanoferroic Devices ($7.1 million).

- Jordan Stump, professor of modern languages and literatures, joined UNL in 1992 after receiving his doctorate from the University of Illinois. He is a distinguished scholar on the French writer Raymond Queneau and is recognized as the leading United States authority on the author. Stump has gone on to translate 20 novels with three more to arrive before spring 2014. He was awarded the French-American Foundation’s Translation Prize in 2001.

- Susan Swearer, professor of educational psychology joined UNL in 1997 and is one of the preeminent leaders in the field of bullying prevention. Her research and contributions have positively impacted the lives of fellow researchers, colleagues, clinicians and children, who have suffered from bullying around the world. Swearer has been honored with fellow status of the American Psychological Association, has been elected to the Society for the Study of School Psychology, and is a recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award.

- Mark Walker, professor of mathematics joined UNL in 1996. He is an internationally recognized leader in research in algebraic K-theory and is making significant contributions to the fields of algebraic geometry and commutative algebra. In addition to his research, he is a winner of a College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award and has had a major impact on the graduate program though his service as graduate recruiting chair.

Rebecca Lai was named the Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor of Chemistry, while Laura White was named John E. Weaver Professor of English.

The Rosowski professorship recognizes faculty at the associate professor level who have achieved distinguished records of scholarship or creative activity and who show exceptional promise for future excellence.

Lai joined UNL in 2007 as an assistant professor and was promoted early to associate professor in 2012. Lai has developed a well-deserved national reputation as a bright young scholar and a rising star in the area of biosensors and bioanalytical chemistry. She is an effective classroom teacher, combining a passion for education with a sense of humor — a combination illustrated by her current honors seminar course “A Muggle’s Guide to Harry Potter’s Chemistry.” This course not only attracted local media attention, but also interested bright non-science majors into a class discussing chemistry in an unusual context. Lai was also awarded the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award this year.

The Aaron Douglas or John E. Weaver Professorship for Teaching Excellence is awarded to faculty holding the full professor rank, and who demonstrate sustained and extraordinary levels of teaching excellence and national visibility for instructional activities and/or practice.

White joined UNL as associate professor of English in 2000. She was promoted to full professor of English in 2010. She has made a significant contribution to her field of 19th century British literature, with an emphasis on Jane Austen studies, through publishing three books. White has also received a College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award in 2003 and both the Annis Chaikin Sorensen Award and the universitywide Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award in 2010. She has combined her scholarship with her excellence in the classroom.

"Each of these scholars is leading the way in cutting edge research and teaching that has value not only for academic understanding, but also for improving the way we live our lives," Uhl-Bien said. "These scholars are dedicated researchers and teachers who represent true mastery in their field. The committee is honored to have had the opportunity to review their work.”