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10th year of Chancellor’s Fellows adds 4 new members

By Clifton B. Parker on March 5, 2010 in University News

Chancellor Linda Katehi hosted a reception this week for the 10th annual class of Chancellor’s Fellows, honoring the accomplishments and potential of outstanding faculty members early in their careers.

Each Chancellor’s Fellow receives a $25,000 award, made possible by members of the Davis Chancellor’s Club and by gifts to the university’s Annual Fund.

“These awards provide critical support for the intellectual and professional development of these faculty members, and help UC Davis retain the world-class scholars and teachers who serve to make this institution so remarkable,” Katehi said.

This year’s crop of four Chancellor’s Fellows brings to 54 the number of people so honored since the program began under then-Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. Each fellow is allowed to use the title “Chancellor’s Fellow” for five years.

Here are the new Chancellor’s Fellows, all of them associate professors:

Xi Chen, chemistry — Chen works at the meeting point between biology and chemistry. Her research group has developed new ways to make both natural and non-natural carbohydrate compounds and rapidly screen these compounds for interactions with proteins and other biological molecules.

Carbohydrates made by living cells play an important role in cancer, inflammation and infections, and Chen’s work could lead to new classes of drugs as well as new insights into disease processes.

“I truly believe that Dr. Chen’s independent research has and will continue to generate high-impact discoveries in the fields of chemistry and chemical biology,” wrote Professor Carlito Lebrilla, chair of the Department of Chemistry, in his nomination letter.

Chen joined UC Davis in 2003 after postdoctoral work at Wayne State University, Detroit, and working in the private sector. Among her other awards are an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.

Elisabeth Krimmer, German and Russian — In more than five years at UC Davis, Krimmer has greatly exceeded what already were high expectations.

The prolific pace of her research and writing “contributed substantially to the recent ranking of the department in fifth place nationally in terms of research productivity,” Jessie Ann Owens, dean of the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, said in her nomination letter.

Owens said she also has been impressed with Krimmer’s “commitment to teaching at all levels,” a commitment that Owens and others believe has generated new interest in the humanities, contributed to recent growth in the number of German majors and helped revitalize the graduate program in German.

“We are very proud of Elisabeth Krimmer and all that she has accomplished,” Owens wrote. “She truly represents the very best of the recently tenured faculty at UC Davis in all aspects of her faculty role.”

Neil Hunter, microbiology — Hunter studies DNA recombination, the process by which segments of DNA can get swapped around when DNA is copied or repaired. Tight control of recombination is vital for making viable eggs and sperm, and to accurately repair damaged chromosomes. Failures in DNA recombination can lead to infertility, birth defects and cancer.

Hunter “ranks among the most promising and accomplished young investigators in biomedical research in the United States,” wrote Douglas Nelson, professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology, in nominating Hunter for the fellowship.

In 2009, Hunter became the first faculty member from UC Davis to be named as an Early Career Scientist by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He joined UC Davis in 2002 after postdoctoral work at Harvard University.

Charan Ranganath, psychology — Charan Ranganath has made a remarkable contribution to the field of cognitive neuroscience of memory during his career at UC Davis, according to Ron Mangun, dean of Social Sciences. “Dr. Ranganath would be an outstanding Chancellor’s Fellow,” Mangun wrote.

Ranganath studies regions of the brain involved in forming and recalling memories, and how these areas might go awry in patients with memory problems. He has shown that an area called the hippocampus, known to be associated with long-term memories, is also important for short-term or working memory.

A recent study from his laboratory showed that involuntary eye movements can show that a memory exists in the hippocampus even when the subject cannot consciously recall it. The group is currently developing methods that could be used to improve memory.

Ranganath joined UC Davis in 2002 after postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania. He has received the 2008 Young Investigator Award from the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, among other awards.


— Andy Fell and Jim Sweeney

Media contact(s)

Clifton B. Parker, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,