Twelve professors receive Kellett Mid-Career Awards

March 20, 2012

by Jill Sakai

Twelve outstanding faculty members at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been named winners of this year’s Kellett Mid-Career Awards.

The Kellett award, supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), recognizes outstanding mid-career faculty members who are five to 20 years past the first promotion to a tenured position. Each winner, chosen by a Graduate School committee, receives a $60,000 flexible research award.

The award is named for William R. Kellett, a former president of the WARF board of trustees and retired president of Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Here are this year’s recipients:

Christopher Bradfield, professor, oncology, directs the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Center. His research focuses on how mammalian systems adapt to environmental change. His team has identified the cellular receptor for the pollutant dioxin and has helped defined the molecular clock that governs circadian behavior and physiology.

Jin-Yi Cai, professor, computer science, is a leading authority in computational complexity theory. He studies what makes a computational problem easy and what makes it hard and has proved some complexity dichotomy theorems that classify broad classes of problems according to their inherent difficulty. Cai is a former Guggenheim Fellow and a current fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Edwin Chapman, professor, neuroscience, is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator who has provided novel insights into the molecular mechanisms that underlie secretory vesicle exocytosis, synaptic transmission and plasticity, and vesicle recycling in neurons. His laboratory also studies botulinum and tetanus toxins and discovered the receptor for the pharmaceutical BOTOX®.

D. Charles DeMets, professor, geoscience, uses high-precision GPS to study global-scale tectonic plate movements and the earthquake cycle in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean region. He is a recently elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a highly cited scientist and teaches introductory- through graduate-level geoscience.

Thomas A. DuBois, professor, Scandinavian studies, focuses on processes of cultural contact in Nordic societies from the medieval era to today, with particular emphasis on Finnish and Sámi cultures. He has served as chair of the Department of Scandinavian Studies as well as director of the Folklore Studies Program and Religious Studies Program.

Michael Graham, professor, chemical and biological engineering, has made diverse contributions to understanding flowing complex and biological fluids, including the dynamics of DNA in microfluidic devices, the energy-saving effects of polymer additives on turbulent flows and locomotion of microorganisms. He served as department chair from 2006 to 2009 and is an associate editor of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, the highest-impact journal in the field.

Lisa Gralnick, professor, art, specializes in the area of art metals and recently completed a seven-year project, “The Gold Standard,” exhibited as a solo exhibition with accompanying monograph at the Bellevue Art Museum in Seattle. Her artworks are included in many public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, the Stedlijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. She has received numerous grants, including the prestigious Louis K. Tiffany Foundation Grant.

David Kaplan, professor, educational psychology, is an internationally recognized educational statistician whose research concerns the development of Bayesian statistical models with applications to empirical education research. He was a fellow at the National Center for Education Statistics in 2001 and currently serves as a consultant to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on the questionnaire design for their Program for International Student Assessment.

Michael Newton, professor, statistics and biostatistics and medical informatics, is recognized internationally for his work on statistical computing and inference in genomics, molecular biology and cancer. He specializes in developing probability models that strike the optimal balance between simplicity and complexity to be effective. He is director of the Biostatistics Program, co-director of the Cancer Genetics Program and a fellow of the American Statistical Association.

Robert Nixon, professor, English, is the Rachel Carson Professor of English and a senior fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities. He contributes frequently to the New York Times and has authored four books, most recently “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor,” and published more than 100 essays, predominantly on environmental, postcolonial and African studies. Nixon is a former Fulbright scholar and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim Foundation.

Larry Shapiro, professor, philosophy, is an active researcher, teacher and university citizen whose many articles and books cover a range of topics within cognitive science, most recently in the area of embodied cognition. He also pioneered a course, titled “Philosophy of the Artificial Sciences,” in which he invites students to consider philosophical questions concerning the possibility of artificial intelligence and artificial life. He served as department chair from 2002 to 2006.

Christopher Taber, professor, economics, is the Richard A. Meese Chair of Applied Econometrics and researches the development and implementation of econometric models of skill formation. His work on economics of education includes studies of the effectiveness of Catholic schools and voucher programs, the importance of borrowing constraints in college-going decisions and general equilibrium models of the labor market. He has also worked on non-experimental methods for evaluation and is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Labor Economics.