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Chancellor fellows are rising scholars in business, ecology, computers, biology, geology

By Clifton B. Parker on March 17, 2006 in University

"Academic star," "superior intellectual attainment," "world leader," "valued colleague," "outstanding scholar" — these are just a few of the terms used to describe the 2005-06 Chancellor's Fellows: Nina Amenta, David Begun, Andrew Hargadon, Edmund "Ted" Powers and James Rustad.

They have distinguished themselves in research, and as teachers, at the undergraduate and graduate levels in these subjects: computational geometry, molecular population genetics, technology management, molecular and cell biology, and computational and theoretical geochemistry.

Collectively, the fellows have published nearly 200 papers, reviews and book chapters. Three of the fellows have received federal research money. All of them have been presenters at national conferences, and some of the fellows have presented at conferences abroad.

Amenta has "pivotal roles" in geometry and the larger field of computer graphics, according to her dean. Begun is "helping put UC Davis on the map in genomics," according to his section chair. Hargadon wrote a book, How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate, that his dean called "one of the best business books of 2003."

Other biology labs working in the same subject area as Powers have senior investigators with large groups, yet Powers "remains competitive … a testimony to his excellence," a colleague said. Rustad, according to his former dean, is credited with several firsts in geochemistry.

The Chancellor's Fellows program is designed to honor and encourage faculty members early in their careers. Each fellow receives a $25,000 prize from private contributions to the UC Davis Annual Fund and Davis Chancellor's Club, with the money to be used for research, teaching or service activities. The honored professors are allowed to use the "Chancellor's Fellow" title for five years.

Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said: "Nominated by their deans and department chairs, our Chancellor's Fellows all show great promise to be exceptionally successful in their academic careers. They represent the best among our junior professors, excelling in their research, teaching and public service. Through this special recognition, we are confirming how highly valued they are."

Vanderhoef launched the fellows program in 2000-01, and 37 fellows have been named so far. Fellows from years past are among those invited to a reception set for next week to honor the newest fellows. The reception is planned for Tuesday evening at the chancellor's residence.

Here are brief descriptions of the research that the 2005-06 fellows are doing, with the information coming from nomination letters written by deans and other faculty members. They also offered comments on the fellows' status in the academic world:

Nina Amenta, Department of Computer Science — "Professor Amenta is one of the world's leaders in her research area, computational geometry, and her applications of geometry have made her an important researcher in computer graphics as well," wrote Enrique Lavernia, dean of the College of Engineering.

Amenta has been an associate professor at UC Davis since 2002.

Lavernia said a central theme in Amenta's research is the representation of shape, and in particular the reconstruction of surfaces and solids in three dimensions from data.

She also has been working on visualization projects related to evolutionary biology, Lavernia said.

David Begun, Evolution and Ecology — He came to UC Davis as an associate professor in 2002 and received a two-year acceleration to professor effective July 1 last year.

"His rapid ascent through the professorial ranks reflects his stature as one of the world's most influential young population geneticists, who is now pioneering the field of population genomics," wrote Professor Michael Turelli, chair of Evolution and Ecology, in urging his dean to nominate Begun to be a Chancellor's Fellow

Then-Dean Phyllis Wise of the College of Biological Sciences followed through last year with a nomination stating: "Dr. Begun is an excellent academic citizen and a superb young scientist who has established a brilliant career at UC Davis."

Andrew Hargadon, Graduate School of Management — Associate Professor Hargadon, director of Technology Management Programs, "has created a well-known and well-regarded stream of research in the management of innovation," wrote Nicole Biggart, dean of the Graduate School of Management.

"But Andy's work is not only for those of us in the academy," Biggart wrote. "He knows how to translate his important findings so that they make an impact on audiences in business, policy analysis and the general public."

Hargadon came to UC Davis as an assistant professor in 2001 and gained associate professor status in 2003.

He launched the Business Development Program in 2004, and Biggart described the program as "perhaps the most noteworthy of Professor Hargadon's accomplishments during his time at UC Davis."

Edmund "Ted" Powers, Molecular and Cell Biology — Then-Dean Wise, in her nomination letter last year, explained that Powers researches how cell growth is controlled in response to environmental signals in eukaryotic cells. Wise wrote that Powers had made "seminal contributions to this field and his papers are referred to as 'models of clarity, beautiful data and insightful thoughts … and a pleasure to read.' "

Powers came to UC Davis as an assistant professor in 1999 and became an associate professor in 2004.

Michael Dahmus, chair of Molecular and Cell Biology, and Judy Callis, one of the section's two vice chairs, wrote that Powers had made "outstanding progress as an independent investigator." Dahmus and Callis note that since his arrival at UC Davis, Powers has published nine research and review articles "in widely read and highly regarded journals in his field."

James Rustad, Department of Geology — Rustad is a computational and theoretical geochemist specializing in the study of processes underlying reactions of surfaces with solids, according to Winston Ko, dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the College of Letters and Science.

Ko wrote that Rustad's work "has great significance for a wide range of environmental and geochemical problems, including transport of both natural and human-introduced contaminants in the environment."

In addition, Ko wrote, Rustad has begun research into processes related to storage and retrieval of nuclear wastes at Department of Energy sites.

"By addressing the behavior of waste fluids in the environment, his research is contributing to solving an important national problem," Ko wrote.

Rustad is an associate professor; he joined the UC Davis faculty in 2003.

Media contact(s)

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