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K-State Today

April 30, 2012

A commitment to education: Four faculty members named newest university distinguished professors

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Kansas State University has chosen four faculty members as the newest university distinguished professors, a lifetime title that is the highest honor the university bestows on its faculty.

The faculty members include Christer Aakeroy, professor of chemistry; Itzik Ben-Itzhak, professor of physics; Susan Brown, professor of biology; and Ruth Welti, professor of biology.

"These faculty members have demonstrated their commitment to education through their excellence in teaching, research, creative endeavors and service," said April Mason, university provost and senior vice president. "They are well-deserving of this recognition as they are outstanding teachers and scholars."

University distinguished professors are appointed following a universitywide competition conducted by the provost.

"We congratulate our newest set of university distinguished professors, who have all made significant contributions to their fields," said Kirk Schulz, Kansas State University president. "We look forward to their continued research and teaching success, which will play an important role as we work toward becoming a top 50 public research university by 2025."

Each of this year's recipients has received national and international recognition for his or her work.

* Aakeroy works in the field of supramolecular chemistry. His research focuses on establishing how molecules communicate, recognize and bind to each other, and how physical properties of solid-state architectures can be modulated by controlling the way in which molecules are assembled. The results from his research currently are being applied to pharmaceutical chemistry and the formulation of agrochemicals.

Aakeroy has received more than $2 million in research funding from organizations like the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense and industrial collaborators. His research has appeared in more than 120 publications in peer-reviewed journals and his work has been cited more than 4,500 times in scientific literature. He has given more than 60 invited presentations at academic institutions, industry and national laboratories, and he has been the keynote speaker at conferences across the world.

In 2009, Aakeroy was appointed to a four-year term on the board of governors of the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre and he will become the chair in 2013. He holds several editor positions for chemistry journals. Aakeroy received a 2011 Presidential Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching, the 2006 Making a Difference Award from the university's Women in Engineering and Science Program and the 2003 Segebrecht Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award. He has supervised 20 doctoral students and 25 undergraduate students.

Aakeroy joined Kansas State University in 1996 as an assistant professor of inorganic and supramolecular chemistry. He earned a doctorate from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and a master's degree from Uppsala University in Sweden.

* Ben-Itzhak's research focuses on the interaction of intense ultrashort laser pulses with molecular ions, with the long-term goal of gaining sufficient understanding of these processes so that they may be controlled at the quantum mechanical level. He also studies the physics of atomic and molecular collisions.

The work is carried out in the James R. Macdonald Laboratory, of which Ben-Itzhak is also the director. The laboratory is in the department of physics and includes 15 graduate faculty in atomic, molecular and optical physics. The laboratory is supported, in part, by $2.5 million each year from the U.S. Department of Energy.    Ben-Itzhak is currently overseeing the installation of a major new laser system funded by a separate $1.3 million Department of Energy grant.

Ben-Itzhak has received collaborative funding from the National Science Foundation and the Binational Science Foundation. He has given nearly 50 invited talks at conferences and departments across the globe, and he has written more than 130 articles in journals, conference proceedings and books. He currently advises six graduate students and has mentored five graduate students and five postdoctoral fellows in the past. Undergraduate students working with him have been particularly prolific and have co-authored more than 63 articles.

Ben-Itzhak received the Rosi and Max Varon Visiting Professorship at the Weizmann Institute of Science in 2003. He was named a fellow of the American Physical Society in 2002 and received the Schwenk Teaching Award in 2000. He came to Kansas State University in 1986 as a research associate in the James R. Macdonald Laboratory. He attended the Israel Institute of Technology, where he earned his doctorate, master's degree and bachelor's degree.

* Brown studies genomics, bioinformatics and the evolution of gene regulatory networks. She is the director of the Arthropod Genomic Center and the Bioinformatics Center. She is currently working on Agripestbase, a community database that contains genome data for pest insects.

Brown has made significant contributions to the field of entomology and has played an important role in the international consortium responsible for sequencing and analyzing the genome of Tribolium castaneum, the red flour beetle. She is currently studying early embryonic patterning and segmentation mechanisms in Tribolium.

She has received funding from agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. She has published more than 95 articles, which have appeared in journals such as Developmental Biology, Genetics, Journal of Theoretical Biology and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

She is currently advising three graduate students and five undergraduate students, and has advised 38 graduate students and 36 undergraduate students in the past. Brown received the 2010 Commerce Bank Distinguished Graduate Faculty award and was named a fellow of the Entomology Society of America in 2011. She is a member of the Society for Developmental Biology and the Genetics Society of America.

Brown joined Kansas State University in 1983 as a research associate in the department of biochemistry. She received a doctorate in genetics from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a bachelor's degree in biology from Smith College.

* Welti studies the chemistry and biochemistry of lipids. She is director and co-founder of the Kansas Lipidomics Research Center, which is used by scientists around the world as a resource for lipid analysis by mass spectrometry. She has been influential in introducing mass spectrometry as a tool for analysis of lipids, particularly to plant biologists.

Welti's research has appeared in more than 100 publications. Her work has been funded by agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Her current work is aimed at determining the role of lipid oxidation in the response of plants to environmental stresses such as temperature changes and exposure to pathogens. Welti received the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation Scholar award in 2006 and the Outstanding Senior Scientist Award from the Kansas State University chapter of Sigma Xi in 2008.

Welti serves on five journal editorial boards, including the board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. She has mentored five graduate students, 66 undergraduate students and eight postdoctoral researchers in her research group.

She received a doctorate in biological chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis and graduated with honors with a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Connecticut. Before joining Kansas State University in 1985, she was a postdoctoral fellow and research assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Kansas Medical Center.