Romnes Fellowships awarded to 11 recently tenured faculty

March 20, 2012

by Jill Sakai

Eleven promising young UW-Madison faculty have been honored with Romnes Faculty Fellowships.

The Romnes awards recognize exceptional faculty members who have earned tenure within the last four years. Selected by a Graduate School committee, winners receive an unrestricted $50,000 award for research, supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).

The award is named for the late H. I. Romnes, former chairman of the board of AT&T and former president of the WARF board of trustees.

Here are this year’s awardees:

Helen Blackwell, professor, chemistry, studies the role of chemical signals in host-bacterial interactions, infectious disease and symbioses. Her laboratory has developed a range of novel synthetic compounds and chemical techniques to intercept bacterial communication. She enjoys conveying the excitement and relevance of organic chemistry to undergraduates and, in 2010, helped found a new doctoral program in chemical biology.

Karen Britland, professor, English, studies early modern women’s writing, Shakespeare and English drama, has published many articles and is an associate editor of the “Complete Works of Ben Jonson,” to be published by Cambridge University Press later this year. She has won several awards and in 2005 was named as one of the “most brilliant Renaissance drama scholars under the age of 40.”

Donald R. Davis Jr., associate professor, languages and cultures of Asia, conducts research on the history of law and religion in India and authored “The Spirit of Hindu Law,” published in 2010. He received the Class of 1955 Distinguished Teaching Award and is chair-elect of the Arts and Humanities divisional committee.

Claudio Gratton, associate professor, entomology, works on the landscape ecology of insects in both basic and applied contexts. He studies the role of beneficial insects, such as native bees and lady beetles, in agriculture and how to conserve them. His research also examines how aquatic insects functionally link aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

John Hawks, associate professor, anthropology, has uncovered rapid genetic changes in humans during the past 10,000 years and the unique contribution of the genomes of Neandertals and other ancient people to our origins and evolution. Well known for his popular public lectures and media outreach, Hawks connects undergraduate education with his research. His blog is recognized internationally as a top resource on human evolution.

Mark Hetzler, associate professor, School of Music, has been teaching trombone, coaching chamber music and performing with the Wisconsin Brass Quintet since 2004. He is active as a concert and recording artist, with performances worldwide and numerous commercial recordings to his credit. He has plans to continue his artistic efforts in performing and recording significant and innovative works of new music.

Sunduz Keles, associate professor, biostatistics and medical informatics and statistics, is a leading figure in developing statistical and computational methods and software for the analysis of data from high-throughput genomics projects.  Her specific focus is methods for understanding protein-DNA and chromatin interactions and their complex contributions to development and diseases.

Laura Knoll, associate professor, medical microbiology and immunology, studies interactions between parasites and their hosts and is leading efforts to purify an active antimicrobial protein from Toxoplasma for its development as a novel therapeutic. Knoll teaches the popular Emerging Infectious Diseases course and recently obtained a NIH large equipment grant to purchase an imaging system to track biological processes in living animals.

Zhenqiang “Jack” Ma, professor, electrical and computer engineering, has pioneered research on fast flexible electronics, nanomembrane-based photonics and optoelectronics. His new semiconductor device concepts have many potential applications in imaging and communication, and his recognition of common-base heterojunction bipolar transistors has been widely implemented in contemporary semiconductor foundries.

Timothy Rogers, associate professor, psychology, focuses his research and teaching on the cognitive and neural processes that support human conceptual knowledge – the form of knowledge that allows us to understand and produce language and to recognize and make inferences about everyday objects and events. He now is drawing on machine learning to study how people acquire knowledge.

Scott Straus, professor, political science and international studies, specializes in the study of political violence, particularly genocide, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. He has published many articles and an award-winning book on the Rwandan genocide. He has received numerous fellowships, including those from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Institute of Peace and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. In 2009, Straus received the campuswide William H. Kiekhofer Distinguished Teaching Award.