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CHANCELLOR'S FELLOWS: The title is theirs for five years

By Dave Jones on December 21, 2011 in University

They are not due to be formally recognized until February, but the title is already theirs to keep for the next five years: Chancellor’s Fellow.

They are the newest class, the class of 2011-12, faculty members who are being honored early in their careers, for having already compiled outstanding records of achievement. Each fellow receives a $25,000 prize.

The 2011-12 fellows, all associate professors, are: Simona Ghetti of psychology, Stacey Harmer of plant biology, Yiyun Li of English, Xin Liu of computer science, Alexander Revzin of biomedical engineering, Kurt Rohde of music and Qing-zhu Yin, geology.

Then-Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef launched the fellows program in 2000, making this year's class the 12th. With this new class, the campus has recognized a total of 70 fellows. See a list of all Chancellor's Fellows since 2000.

The Chancellor’s Club and the university’s annual fund support the program.

An invitation-only reception for the new Chancellor's Fellows is scheduled for the evening of Feb. 23, with Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter as the hosts.

Here are profiles of each of the 2011-12 fellows:

• Simona Ghetti, psychology — Her research focuses mainly on the development of memory and metamemory in middle childhood. A recent area of research looks at the influence of metabolic changes — including hydration and dehydration — on memory function. George R. Mangun, dean of Social Sciences, writes that the research has huge practical implications for athletes and others who are subject to dehydration. “Dr. Ghetti’s approach is both systematic and rigorous,” Mangun said. Ghetti received her doctorate from UC Davis in 2001 and joined the faculty in 2005. She previously worked as a tenured research professor for the National Research Council in Bologna, Italy. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology, summa cum laude, from the Università di Padova, Italy.

• Stacey Harmer, plant biology — She is an international authority on circadian rhythms in plants — the process by which internal clocks, set by length of day, inform plants of the change of season, and tell them when to make shoots, flower, seed and drop leaves. These internal clocks, her research has shown, have wide influence over other genes and activities — discoveries that will be crucial for improving crop yields through plants that can adapt to different climates and conditions. Harmer earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a doctorate from UCSF, and she conducted postdoctoral work at The Scripps Research Institute before joining the UC Davis faculty in 2002.

• Yiyun Li, English — No sooner had The New Yorker magazine named her to its list of 20 writers under 40 considered to be the best in the country, than she published her second novel, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, to critical acclaim; and soon after that she received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. All this happened in 2010, and it is all “very impressive,” said Jessie Ann Owens, dean of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies. Professor Scott Simmon, chair of the English Department, said no previous writer can match Li’s mix of “savage comedy and compassion within specific cultural contexts.” She joined the UC Davis faculty in 2008. She holds two Master of Fine Arts degrees, one from the Iowa Writers Workshop and the other in creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa; and a Bachelor of Science degree from Peking University.

• Xin Liu, computer science — Smartphones and tablet computers are becoming more prevalent, data transfer is exploding and wireless networks are being strained. Which is where Liu comes in with her research, looking for ways to use resources more efficiently — say, by deploying “smart radio” technology, in which devices seek out temporarily unused areas of the radio spectrum, and by programming devices so that they better manage their resources. For example, a smartphone might automatically carry out less data synchronization on days when its user makes a lot of phone calls. Liu holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Xi’an Jiaotong University, China, and a Ph.D. from Purdue University. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before coming to UC Davis in 2003.

• Alexander Revzin, biomedical engineering — Working at the interface of biology, his lab specializes in developing miniaturized tools to study and work with living cells, such as “lab on a chip” technology that can be applied in diagnosing human immunodeficiency virus or in studying how stem cells can develop into liver cells. Revzin’s work is highly interdisciplinary, involving aspects of microfabrication, surface engineering, biomaterials, biochemistry, and cell and molecular biology. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University and a doctorate from Texas A&M, and was a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School before joining UC Davis in 2004.

• Kurt Rohde, music — “As a musicologist myself, I feel that I can offer a very strong assessment of his qualifications for the award,” Dean Owens said. “As a composer, violist, teacher, and departmental and professional citizen, Professor Rohde has established a stellar reputation locally, nationally and internationally.” In the past two years alone, wrote Professor Christopher A. Reynolds, chair of the Department of Music, Rohde has composed at least eight significant works. Reynolds’ letter of nomination began its commentary on Rohde’s creative activity by emphasizing both his prolific output and his range of modes, listing five recent works “that have very different profiles.” One recommendation said: “one of the finest composers of his generation.”

• Qing-zhu Yin, geology — His nominator, Professor David Osleger, acting chair of the Department of Geology, calls Yin “a rising star in the field of geochemistry and cosmochemistry … whose innovative work sheds light on some fundamental questions about the origin and history of our planet.” He integrates highly technical analytical work with a deep understanding of the theoretical context of diverse isotopic systems. “His work is widely regarded as pioneering research in the field, providing critical constraints on the timing of planetary formation, core segregation and crust-mantle evolution.” He received a bachelor’s degree in earth science at Peking University, a master’s in geochemistry at the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing, and a doctorate in cosmochemistry at the Max-Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 2003.

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,