7 scolars get top nod, join UI’s center for Advance Study

Chemistry Professor Peter Beak is one of seven professors at the University of Illinois who will begin their appointments this fall as professors in the Center for Advanced Study. The Center´s faculty spans disciplines, uniting scholars from vario Regina Martinez

Chemistry Professor Peter Beak is one of seven professors at the University of Illinois who will begin their appointments this fall as professors in the Center for Advanced Study. The Center´s faculty spans disciplines, uniting scholars from vario Regina Martinez

By Erin Renzas

The University’s Center for Advanced Study welcomed seven new professors into its ranks this past summer for the fall semester.

Appointment as a member of the Center, which is one of the University’s first organizations to reward outstanding scholarly achievement, is one of the most prestigious forms of recognition, said Masumi Iriye, associate director of the Center.

“These are people who have worked very hard to make major contributions to their designated discipline,” said William Greenough, the Center’s director. “They meet and exceed the standards of excellence within their field.”

The appointments of Tamer Basar, Peter Beak, Bruce Hajek, C. Stephen Jaeger, Susan Kieffer, Michael Moore and Dale Van Harlingen were announced in May and approved by the Board of Trustees during its July meeting. The appointments are permanent.

“It is certainly an awesome honor to be recognized along side both present members and past members,” Beak said.

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    Since the Center’s establishment in 1959, only 56 University professors have held appointments. The seven electedprofessors increased the membership from 17 members last year to 24 members this year. The number of members varies each year but generally hovers around twenty members according to the Center.

    The number of Center professors has dropped as low as 12 in recent years, Iriye said.

    “The drop was due to an unexpected series of retirements,” Iriye said.

    The Center hopes the increase will produce more continuity among the members, Greenough said. Many of the accomplished members have already been in their field for over thirty years and are approaching retirement.

    “We want professors who remember five to 10 years ago,” Greenough said.

    The Center seeks to promote an interdisciplinary, academic atmosphere within the campus. It brings together scholars from various fields and backgrounds and rewards and encourages academic excellence, Greenough said. Current members include distinguished authors, and both Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners.

    The Center serves the faculty, the students and the community. It is also at the head of many initiatives, Iriye said.

    The Center sponsors the annual MillerComm public events series, which began in 1972. The series includes free and open lectures, readings and performances from nationally and internationally recognized visitors.

    “We cast our net as broadly as we can. We ask as what is troubling people? What should be troubling them? And, what can we do in the long run?” Greenough said.

    Additionally, the Center sponsors the Forum on Critical Issues program, which will include a discussion on mega-disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, set for Sept. 26.

    “Our calendar is always packed with lectures and forums, which include discussions on breaking news events and academically based developments,” Iriye said.

    In addition to campus and community outreach, the Center also seeks to provide unique opportunities to faculty members.

    Center professors are involved in the selection process of research and creative proposals submitted by tenured and untenured faculty members. These proposals are selected in an annual competition and allocate funding for the selected faculty members to pursue individual projects. The selected associates and fellows are granted one semester of release time from teaching.

    “Our programs give faculty the ability to really concentrate on the projects they are working on,” Iriye said.

    The Center and its programs play an important part in helping to maintain the University’s intellectual heart and provide incentives and opportunities to University faculty members, Greenough said. Students are not often informed about the effort it takes to maintain the top faculty members at the University, he added.

    There is competition among schools to add the best men and women to their faculty, Greenough said. Their employment at a university can impact the Newsweek ratings of that institution.

    “There is a battle to retain top university professors,” Greenough said. “It very much enhances the value of your (University) degree; it makes it more likely that you will get a job or into graduate school.”

    The caliber of the University and its ability to retain an excellent faculty also results from the high quality of the students, Beak said.

    “The students at the University have always been and continue to be enormously impressive,” Beak said. “What makes a university great are both its students and faculty.”

    The nomination and election process for the new members began more then a year ago. Deans and department heads nominated potential members. Dossiers, documenting the nominees’ achievements and work, were also submitted.

    Current members of the center reviewed the nominees and recommendations were submitted to the director. The nominees were then reviewed by various campus officials before being approved by the University Board of Trustees.

    CAS promotes academic diversity

    Tamer Basar is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and is internationally renowned for his scholarly contributions to the fields of systems, control and game theory.

    Peter Beck is a professor of chemistry. He has made major contributions to the field of organic chemistry. His current research involves the determination of reaction trajectories in atom-transfer reactions and asymmetric synthesis.

    Bruce Hajek is a professor of electrical and computer engineering. His research focuses on the area of modeling, analysis and optimization of the physical process of communication.

    C. Stephen Jaeger is a professor of Germanic languages, comparative and world literatures. He is the author of several books and will serve as a fellow at the Getty Research Institute during the 2005-2006 academic year.

    Susan Kieffer is a professor of geology. She was the second American and first (and only) woman to be awarded the Spendiarov Prize of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences.

    Michael S. Moore is a professor of law. Half of the recent annual meetings of the Jurisprudence Section of the American Association of Law Schools have been devoted to various aspectes of his works in the philosophy of law.

    Dale J. Van Harlinger is a professor of physics. He was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and was awarded the 1990 Oliver E. Buckley Prize with Donald Ginsberg from the American Physical Society.

    -Center of Advanced Study