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K-State Today

December 3, 2012

Awarding success: Two professors named 2012-2013 Commerce Bank Distinguished Faculty

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

A Kansas State University physicist and a virologist are being recognized with the 2012-2013 Commerce Bank Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award.

Bharat Ratra, professor of physics, and Raymond "Bob" Rowland, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, will receive the awards at the Graduate School commencement ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, in Bramlage Coliseum. The awards, which come with a $2,500 honorarium, are supported by the William T. Kemper Foundation and the Commerce Bancshares Foundation. They are coordinated through the Kansas State University Foundation and the president's office.

"For 18 years, Commerce Bank and the William T. Kemper Foundation have joined with Kansas State University to support the Commerce Bank Distinguished Graduate Faculty Awards," said Tom Giller, community bank president of Commerce Bank, Manhattan. "Exceptional instruction breeds student success, and we are proud to help the university honor faculty members who excel in research and the teaching and mentoring of Kansas State University students."

Ratra works in the areas of cosmology and astro-particle physics. He researches the structure and evolution of the universe. Two of his current principal research interests include developing models for the large-scale matter and radiation distributions in the universe and testing these models by comparing predictions to observational data.

In 1988, Ratra and Jim Peebles proposed the first dynamical dark energy model. Dark energy is the leading candidate for the mechanism that is responsible for causing the cosmological expansion to accelerate. The discovery that the cosmological expansion is accelerating is one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the last quarter of a century.

Ratra's research has appeared in more than 80 scholarly publications, which have been cited more than 8,500 times in scientific literature. In the last three years, he has given more than 50 invited presentations around the world. Ratra has received more than $7 million in individual and collaborative grants, largely from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Ratra joined Kansas State University in 1996 as an assistant professor of physics. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University, the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ratra earned a doctorate in physics from Stanford University and a master's degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi.

"I am very honored, humbled and happy to have been chosen to receive the award," Ratra said. "It is reassuring and gratifying that an institution like the Commerce Bank is willing to step up and highlight Kansas State University cosmology research and education."

Rowland's current research interests center on addressing fundamental problems in infectious diseases caused by emerging pig viruses. The current focus is on molecular mechanisms of disease caused by porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and porcine circovirus type 2. This research includes the design and development of novel detection and vaccine approaches, as well as the control of viruses in the field.

Rowland's research is supported by funding from the Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Pork Board and various commercial companies.

Rowland is the project director for the Department of Agriculture's multistate Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Coordinated Agricultural Project, a multi-university program devoted to research, extension and education of the disease. Rowland is also the associate director of the Department of Homeland Security-supported Center of Excellence on Zoonotic and Emerging Diseases. In addition, he serves as the co-director of the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Host Genetics Consortium, a multiyear project devoted to understanding the genetics of the interaction between the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and its host.

Rowland joined Kansas State University in 2001. He received his doctorate in microbiology from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He was a postdoctoral fellow from 1989-1994 at the University of Minnesota, and then joined the faculty at South Dakota State University.

"This award is shared by a dean and department head who have provided unyielding support for my research and educational endeavors," Rowland said. "I am fortunate to be supported by a tremendous team of administrative personnel, technicians, postdoctoral fellows, resident fellows, graduate students and undergraduate students. This award is a testament to how researchers can conduct big science through the power of collaboration."