6 CU Boulder Faculty Become Distinguished Professors | CU Boulder today
With the approval of the CU’s Board of Regents, the University of Colorado presented 11 newly appointed Distinguished Professors – the highest honor bestowed on faculty on the system’s four campuses. Six of the winners are affiliated with the CU Boulder campus.
They are Andreas Becker, José-Luis Jimenez, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Diane McKnight, Gifford Miller and Helen Norton. From the CU Anschutz medical campus, Dana Dabelea, Judith Regensteiner and David A. Schwartz have also been named Distinguished Professors. From the CU Denver campus, Stephen Gedney and Mary Guy have also been named Distinguished Professors. A CU connections earlier today, the article recognized all of the newly appointed Distinguished Professors in the UC system.
Distinguished Professors are tenured faculty members who demonstrate exemplary performance in research or creative work; a record of excellence in promoting learning and the acquisition by students of knowledge and skills; and exceptional service to the profession, the university and its affiliates. Including this year’s laureates, 129 distinguished professors have been appointed since the title was created in 1977.
On November 4, the Board of Regents voted to approve the cohort of faculty members recommended by President Todd Saliman with the assent of the system-wide Committee of Eminent Professors. This year’s winners will be officially recognized at a board meeting in spring 2022.
The 2021 distinguished professors are:
Becker is world famous for his research in atomic and molecular dynamics. He particularly focuses on light-matter interactions. He explores the fundamental interactions of atomic and molecular systems with intense ultrashort light pulses, as well as how these interactions can be productively controlled. A faculty member since 2008, he has authored or co-authored over 120 articles and has been cited over 10,000 times. He has received continued support from the Department of Energy since arriving in the United States, as well as substantial support from the US Air Force.
Beyond his pioneering work as a theoretical researcher, Becker is one of CU’s best and most versatile physics teachers. He is highly regarded and has been named “Favorite Professor” four times by the Physics Honor Society. Becker has been both a leader in the physics department and at JILA, and has been a very successful graduate student mentor for the past decade.
Jimenez is an exceptional teacher, researcher and community member. A member of the CU faculty since 2002, he is an internationally renowned researcher in the field of atmospheric aerosols, which have significant effects on climate, air pollution and human health. His work has included instrument development, leading international field missions and performing innovative analyzes, radically altering atmospheric chemistry for the better. Not only has he proven to be a successful and innovative researcher, but his influence extends to his students. Many of Jimenez’s most cited works are the principal authors of his doctoral students, demonstrating his willingness to empower future leaders in his field.
Throughout the pandemic, Jimenez applied his aerosol expertise to understand the transmission of COVID-19. Among the results of his collaborative work is the recognition by the World Health Organization that the virus is transmitted by aerosols. His work not only inspired future researchers, had a significant impact on the field of atmospheric aerosols, and proved to be an impactful and service-oriented member of the CU community, but it also saved lives.
Kocher is widely recognized as a central voice in black poetry and was a pioneer in this field. She inspired many young poets and pioneering paths for black poets to follow. A member of the CU faculty since 2006, his dedication to CU is evident in his service in roles such as Creative Writing Program Director, then Department Director and then Division Dean, in addition to making lasting changes and impactful at every post.
Kocher’s teaching is exemplary and is presented as one of the best in the department. As an award-winning poet, she has powerfully and creatively highlighted important topics such as social justice, race and anti-racism. She has authored seven volumes of poetry, and more are in progress, and her poetry has appeared in 13 major anthologies. Kocher demonstrates talent, professionalism and leadership at all levels. In addition to writing poetry, she is a multimedia artist with works in film and performance. She has 12 essays in print, demonstrating her cross-arts activities even as she pushes the boundaries of poetry.
She has won countless awards and honors, including the Beaux Boudreaux Visiting Writer Series Award from the University of Southern California (2020) and was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (2016). Her work as a teacher is exemplary, with unanimous praise from her peers and students, who say her work is inspiring, impactful, and enables them to master their own artistic craft.
Diane McKnight, PhD, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR)
A CU faculty member since 1996, McKnight has served the CU community in a number of departments, including the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering; the Environmental Studies Program, INSTAAR; the Center for Water and Earth Sciences and Technologies; Graduate program in hydrological sciences; and the Mountain Research Station.
His academic work explores ecological, biogeochemical and hydrological processes in lakes, rivers and watersheds, mainly in polar and mountainous regions. These field studies analyze the dynamics of these systems and apply innovative measurement tools in harsh environments. It is a leader in the measurement of dissolved organic matter from its fluorescence spectra. His flagship article has been cited over 2,000 times. Her work has made her a leader of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research Network and she has been a Principal Investigator in a number of projects since 1997.
McKnight’s work has transformed his field and improved scientific understanding of the effects of climate change. She has been active in public awareness programs aimed at translating science to the public, including her work on a series of children’s books. An outstanding teacher and graduate student mentor, she has served CU as a curriculum innovator in a wide variety of disciplines. Since 1996, McKnight has been the senior advisor to 24 doctoral students. Not only has she led groundbreaking research, advanced public knowledge, and served the UC community, she prepared the next group of researchers to do the same.
Gifford Miller, PhD, Department of Geological Sciences and Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR)
Miller is an internationally renowned authority on Quaternary science, the study of the Quaternary Period (commonly referred to as the Ice Age and Modern Warm Times) that began around 2.6 million years ago. Specifically, he addressed important questions regarding the paleoclimate of the period, and his work transformed our understanding of why significant changes in flora and fauna occurred during the period. A CU faculty member since 1980, Miller has a golden touch at finding and choosing important problems to study and is also legendary at solving problems using unconventional approaches. Two important questions he answered are: During the Quaternary period, how big was the Arctic ice cap? And how quickly has that changed? These responses, along with several separate surveys of megafauna extinctions, have had drastic practical impacts on his field.
As a teacher, Miller succeeded because of his students and mentees. Beyond the classroom, he has established a reputation as a field teacher, engaging students and interns around the world to demonstrate the appropriate application of analytical tools and data analysis in certain some of the harshest environments on the planet. Miller has served the university in a variety of positions. As president and later on the geological sciences faculty, he was instrumental in the creation of the Benson Earth Sciences Building. He also played a central role in the design and development of the SEEC and SEEL buildings on the CU Boulder East campus. Miller has a proven track record of leadership, service and innovation, and is a thought leader in his field.
Norton is a revolutionary constitution scholar who has proven to be a thought leader in areas of the relationship between government speech and the First Amendment. She was among the first to understand the intricacies of this relationship and published the seminal book on this topic, The government’s discourse and the Constitution (2019). As the most influential and respectful writer on what many saw as the most important aspect of legal doctrine in a crucial part of the Constitution, Norton demonstrated unprecedented excellence in his field.
Beyond his foundational writings, his contributions to teaching reflected this same level of dedication and inspiration. A faculty member of CU since 2007, Norton has received several teaching awards, including the President’s Teaching Scholar (2014), and has received the Excellence in Teaching Award five times, an honor bestowed by law students from CU. His impact on law education reverberates far beyond CU, as his work on government discourse has impacted many law schools nationally and internationally. During his 20 years in academia, Norton has published over 35 legal journal articles and comprehensive essays, in addition to a variety of shorter works. She is a much sought-after speaker at top constitutional workshops and conferences across the country.