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Our newest Chancellor's Fellows

By Dave Jones on January 5, 2015 in University News

UC Davis has announced its 15th class of Chancellor’s Fellows — 10 faculty members at the associate professor level who have caught the attention of their colleagues, department chairs and deans, and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.

The 2014-15 fellows and their fields: Heidi L. Ballard, environmental science education; Maruša Bradač, astrophysics; Graham Coop, evolution and ecology; Amanda E. Guyer, developmental psychology; Tessa M. Hill, marine science; Richard S. Kim, Asian American studies; William D. Ristenpart, chemical engineering; Teresa Eleanor Steele, evolutionary anthropology; Archana Venkatesan, comparative literature and religious studies; and Huaijun Zhou, animal immunology.

Initiated in 2000, the "Chancellor's Fellow" designation is one of the highest and most prestigious faculty honors at UC Davis. The program recognizes rising stars who shine as teachers and campus citizens, and whose scholarly work already puts them at the top of their fields — garnering attention far and wide.

“UC Davis is a world-class university because we have a world-class faculty,” Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said. “The Chancellor’s Fellows are producing groundbreaking research and scholarship that is rivaled only by the vitally important work they do with our students in our classrooms and labs. The fellows truly epitomize UC Davis’ vision and mission, and we are fortunate to have them as part of the Aggie community."

The fellows program, which provides a $25,000 award to each honoree, is funded 100 percent by private donations to the UC Davis Annual Fund and the Davis Chancellor's Club — a giving society for UC Davis supporters who give $1,000 in unrestricted donations to UC Davis annually.

Fellows often use the award money to pursue research ideas that eventually garner additional funding to support their important research. Additionally, the title "Chancellor's Fellow" is theirs to keep for five years.
With the new appointments, Katehi and her predecessor, Larry N. Vanderhoef, have named 98 Chancellor’s Fellows. See all of the Chancellor's Fellows since 2000. A reception for the new fellows is planned in the spring.

More about each new fellow, and what their nominators had to say:

Heidi L. Ballard, School of Education — Her expertise is in the teaching of environmental science and stewardship as participatory endeavors, and documenting the outcomes. “I find strong evidence in Dr. Ballard’s record that she is making meaningful contributions in these areas, and, in fact, is developing into a leading scholar in the emerging interdisciplinary field of environmental education, conservation and sustainability,” Dean Harold G. Levine wrote. He noted her involvement in a network of scholars who aim to legitimize and broaden the field of citizen science. Levine described Ballard as an “outstanding” teacher and “active mentor” to graduate students. She came to UC Davis as an associate professor in 2006, after earning a Ph.D. in environmental science and policy and management at UC Berkeley. She holds a master’s degree in botany education from Miami University (Ohio), a master’s in education from Stanford, and a bachelor’s in human biology and English literature from Stanford, as well as a California teaching credential for science education at the secondary level (also from Stanford).

Maruša Bradač, Department of Physics, Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, College of Letters and Science — She is “known as one of the top young astrophysicists worldwide,” wrote Andreas Albrecht, physics professor and chair. Bradač has a special expertise in gravitational lensing, applying it to colliding clusters of galaxies, or “bullet clusters,” in research that is considered truly groundbreaking, Albrecht continued. “The complexities and subtleties connected with the collision process can be exploited to explore the nature of the mysterious cosmic ‘dark matter’ more deeply than with any other approach.” Bradač also has made “quite a name for herself as a teacher and communicator of science,” Albrecht wrote. Bradač created a “huge hit” with her innovative “Physics of California” course, which introduce important physics concepts in the context of popular activities such as surfing and biking. She started at UC Davis as an assistant professor, 2009-13, and advanced to associate professor in 2013. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a Ph.D. at the University of Bonn.

Graham Coop, Department of Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences; and the Center for Population Biology —With an expertise in analyzing large genomic datasets, Coop is taking population genetics to new levels. Dean James E.K. Hildreth cited a referee’s conclusion that Coop had made “one of the major breakthroughs in human genetics over the past few years,” with his study of the mechanisms and evolution of recombination rates and patterns, to determine how genetic diversity is generated in people. Hildreth recognized Coop’s sharing of his expertise with students, post-doctoral associates and other faculty members to advance their research. “Thus, it is clear that he is working to make the climate of UC Davis more collaborative and innovative, and to help our students become more independent, critical problem-solvers.” In short, Hildreth wrote, Coop “epitomizes the ideal early career faculty member who is on a steep trajectory.” Coop started as UC Davis as an assistant professor, 2008-12, and became an associate professor in 2012. He received a Ph.D. from Oxford University, where he studied statistics. He has a master’s in physics from the University of Reading.

Amanda E. Guyer, Department of Human Ecology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and the Center for Mind and Brain — “Her work is having a major impact on the interdisciplinary field of developmental neuroscience and psychopathology, as evidenced by the caliber of journals in which her work is being published and by the number of citations of her journal articles,” Dean Helene R. Dillard wrote. The dean cited letters of recommendation that came in from outside the university in connection with Guyer’s promotion to associate professor in 2013: One letter-writer placed Guyer among the top five people in the country in her cohort, and another said “her work is original and leading-edge to redirect the field toward early disease markers and sociological contributing factors.” Dillard described Guyer as a “terrific” teacher, selected by undergraduates in 2012-13 as outstanding faculty member in the human development. She started at UC Davis as an assistant professor in 2009, after six years of postdoctoral work at the National Institute of Health. She received a Ph.D., M.Phil. and M.S., all in developmental psychology, from Yale University, and did her undergraduate work at Skidmore College (New York).

Tessa M. Hill, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, College of Letters and Science; and the Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute — Recently elected a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, one of the youngest members ever, Hill researches the impacts of climate change on marine systems, investigating geologic methane sources, ocean acidification and climate records from 1 million years ago to the present, and projecting climate change into the future. She is considered a catalyst in building UC Davis’ oceanography program, having been instrumental in establishing a new major, Marine and Coastal Sciences, and now in developing an innovative graduate program in the Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute. Interim Dean Alexandra Navrotsky described Hill as “passionate” and “outstanding” in teaching and mentoring, and “a brilliant communicator of science to the general public.” Hill came to UC Davis as a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in 2004. Two years later, when the fellowship ended, she joined the faculty as an assistant professor, moving up to the associate level in 2013. She has a Ph.D. from the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science, UC Santa Barbara, and a bachelor’s in marine science from Eckerd College (Florida).

Richard S. Kim, Department of Asian American Studies, Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, College of Letters and Science — Nominated by former Dean Jessie Ann Owens, who wrote of Kim’s “keen ability to untangle the complex web of geopolitics among the U.S., Korea, Japan, China and Russia.” She pointed out “a telling indicator of his stature as a scholar”: his recent selection for a highly competitive UC President’s Research Fellowship in the Humanities. “His social justice-based research, student-friendly teaching and inclusive professional activities strongly resonate with the diversity goals so aptly stated in the university’s Principles of Community,” Owens wrote. He started at UC Davis as an assistant professor in 2002 and advanced to associate professor in the 2010-2011 academic year. He has served as department chair since 2013. He received a Ph.D. (history), master’s degree (history) and bachelor’s degree (East Asian studies) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a master’s in Asian American studies from UCLA.

William D. Ristenpart, Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, College of Engineering — No wonder former department chair Ahmet Palazoglu described Ristenpart as a “prolific” researcher and teacher. First and foremost, he investigates complex transport phenomena, say, involving electrocoalescence of charged droplets, shear-induced deformation of red blood cells and turbulent dispersion of airborne pathogens. He has two active grants from the National Science Foundation, one of which is an NSF Career Award for an early-career scholar with outstanding potential. In addition, he is co-principal investigator on a National Institute of Justice grant to study the forensic-evidence properties of cut vs. torn duct tape. This year, for the second consecutive year, he and Professor Tonya Kuhl are co-teaching two introductory courses (one for chemical engineering majors, the other a general elective course) that use the roasting and brewing of coffee as the basis for teaching the principles of chemical engineering. He studied at UC Davis (B.S., 1999) and Princeton University (Ph.D., 2005), and did postdoctoral work at Harvard University. He returned to UC Davis as an assistant professor in 2008 and achieved associate rank in 2013. He has held the Joe and Essie Smith Endowed Chair of Chemical Engineering since 2012.

Teresa Eleanor Steele, Department of Anthropology, Division of Social Sciences, College of Letters and Science — She studies the later phases of human evolution with a goal of discovering why the earliest “modern” humans spread out of Africa about 50,000 years ago and how they replaced the Neandertals in Europe. She derives data from the period 780,000 to 10,000 years ago, through zooarchaeology — the study of ancient faunal/animal remains. Dean George R. Mangun wrote: “This line of research provides a window on ancient human diets, of course, but also informs on the technologies humans used to capture prey, the social organization of early human societies, and the environments in which humans (and their animal prey) lived.” Since coming to UC Davis in 2006, she has published 26 full-length journal articles, three journal comments and seven book chapters, according to Mangun, who added that Steele’s reputation is growing steadily, domestically and internationally. Further, he said, Steele is a “gifted” teacher and mentor, “exemplary” in her service to the campus community — and excels at coordinating her campus schedule with her field travels. Steele, an associate professor since 2013, has a Ph.D. and master’s from Stanford University, and a bachelor’s in anthropology and human biology from Emory University (Georgia).

Archana Venkatesan, departments of Comparative Literature and Religious Studies, Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, College of Letters and Science — She is a scholar of South Asian literature and culture with an emphasis on Tamil medieval literature, as evidenced in her books The Secret Garland and A Hundred Measures of Time, comprising translations and extensive supporting material. The former volume earned praise for making the Tamil works accessible to the lay reader and inviting fresh interpretations. Former Dean Jessie Ann Owens praised the second volume for making “a monumental medieval poem available to a modern audience for the first time.” Owens also commended Venkatesan as a teacher and mentor; the Consortium for Women and Research agreed when it gave its Outstanding Mentor Award to Venkatesan in 2013. She has served as an undergraduate adviser, teaching assistant adviser and director of the Graduate Group in the Study of Religion. She spearheaded the Religions of India Initiative, conducting extensive outreach to the Indian community of the greater Sacramento region. She came to UC Davis as an associate professor in 2007; before that she was a faculty member at St. Lawrence University (New York). She has a Ph.D. and master’s in South Asian studies from UC Berkeley, and a bachelor’s in English literature from UC Berkeley.

Huaijun Zhou, Department of Animal Science, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences — This immunogeneticist defines the mechanisms of host immune response to infection in poultry using genetic and functional genomic approaches. By blending molecular and biostatistical methodologies, “his creative genius is advancing the field at high speed,” wrote Dean Helene R. Dillard, noting the importance of Zhou’s research to global food security. Indeed, he is the recipient of a $6 million Feed the Future grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Dillard commended Zhou’s “pay it forward” attitude — he shares resources, he mentors developing scientists, he’s “the consummate colleague in every sense of the word.” Similarly, in the classroom, he strives to develop students’ critical thinking and understanding of the science behind “health.” He started at UC Davis as an assistant professor, 2011-12, and became an associate professor in 2013. Previously he was an adjunct professor and assistant professor in the Department of Poultry Science at Texas A&M University. He has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and immunogenetics, and a master’s in bioinformatics and computational biology, both from Iowa State University; and a master’s (animal genetics) and bachelor’s (animal science) from Yangzhou University (China).

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Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,