Five Professors to Be Recognized at Faculty Convocation

October 3, 2013

Five nationally acclaimed faculty members will be presented the Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity at the ninth annual Faculty Convocation on Friday, Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. in Bowker Auditorium.

Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy will give the keynote address and present the awards.

Those receiving awards are Daniela Calzetti, professor of astronomy; Leonce Ndikumana, the Andrew Glyn Professor of Economics; Stephen R. Platt, professor of history; Danny J. Schnell, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and Sankaran Thayumanavan, professor of chemistry.

Daniela Calzetti has gained worldwide recognition for her research on interstellar dust and how it effects the observation of galaxies. She has shown that the rates at which galaxies form new stars can be properly determined only after the effects of interstellar dust have been factored in. That discovery has opened a new era of precision measurement of galactic properties and helped illuminate the long-term evolution of galaxies. Calzetti is one of the few astronomers in the world to have had a scientific law named for her. Calzetti’s Law, critical to interpreting and modeling galaxies, has applications in everything from theoretical simulations to observations of distant and nearby galaxy populations, as well as to such analysis packages as HyperZ, IDL, and Sauron Code. One of Calzetti’s articles has been cited more than a 1,000 times, and with nearly 4,000 citations for her first-author articles she is her department’s most-cited faculty member. She currently heads a project that was awarded 154 orbits of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Léonce Ndikumanaonce suffered political persecution as a prisoner of conscience in his native Burundi, but now devotes his research and scholarship to improving the lives of some of the planet’s most impoverished people. His work focuses on macroeconomic policy in Africa, the subject of several of his books and 50-plus articles. Ndikumana’s latest work, on capital flight from Africa, has had a major impact on policy debate. It shows that the continent has suffered more than $1 trillion in capital flight since 1970, making it an international net creditor, not a net debtor. After receiving tenure in 2002, Ndikumana was appointed chief of macroeconomic analysis at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and subsequently became director of development economics research at the African Development Bank. He returned to campus in 2011 to serve as Andrew Glyn Professor of Economics and direct the African Policy Program at the Political Economy Research Institute.

Stephen R. Plattis an acclaimed authority on 19th-century Chinese history. His book, “Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War,” published in 2012, significantly altered historians’ perceptions of that conflict. Platt had previously written “Provincial Patriots: The Hunanese and Modern China” and he has two books in progress: “Pacific Overtures: The United States and China in the Nineteenth Century,” co-authored with Heather Cox Richardson of Boston College, and “Canton: A Global History of the Coming of the Opium War.”

Danny J. Schnellis a groundbreaker in the biochemical and genetic analysis of the biogenesis of chloroplasts and the photosynthetic apparatus in plants, and has published 69 journal articles, reviews, and book chapters and garnered more than 2,500 non-self citations. He has been active in the American Society of Plant Biologists, having served as chair of the board of trustees and two of its committees and been named a society fellow. He also is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Schnell first assumed a leadership role on campus as director of the plant biology graduate program. He then headed the biochemistry and molecular biology program for six years while co-directing the Institute for Massachusetts Biofuels Research, after which he became principal investigator of a $4.2 million project for the Department of Energy’s Plants Engineered to Replace Oil Program. The project unites several campus groups, an industrial partner, and researchers from two other institutions to engineer a non-food crop for biofuel.

Sankaran “Thai” Thayumanavans research spans a broad realm from cancer therapy using novel drug delivery vehicles to generating organic solar-cell materials. His research is most innovative in its design of new and often unorthodox molecules and materials that result in breakthroughs in important areas. One recent such example is Thayumanavan’s work in developing fundamentally new molecular design algorithms for nanomaterials that predictably respond to subtle variations in their environment. Thayumanavan is further renowned for his ability to arrive at practical molecular systems to solve important problems, such as polymer nanogels that are capable of delivering both proteins and small hydrophobic molecules to targeted cells and sub-cellular compartments. His stature in his field is attested to by the extraordinary number of presentations he has been invited to make at international conferences.

On campus, Thayumanavan is celebrated for his great success in winning National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health grant funding and in securing large center grants that benefit many researchers.

A luncheon reception in the Student Union Ballroom for the chancellor and the honorees will be held immediately following the ceremony.

The ceremony begins with an academic processional across the campus, leaving from the Cape Cod Lounge in the Student Union, going past the Campus Pond, around Herter Hall and then past the W.E.B. Du Bois Library before entering Stockbridge Hall, weather permitting.

 

 

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