Faculty Notes

MPS faculty are known worldwide for the teaching and research excellence in their fields. They are sought by media for their opinions on the latest research, and are published in major international journals. Here is a glimpse of what MPS faculty are doing today.

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Recent Honors and Awards


Annaliese Franz, assistant professor of chemistry, received the 2013 Outstanding Mentor Award from the Consortium for Women and Research. The award honors Academic Senate and Academic Federation members for mentoring post-docs, graduate students and/or undergraduates in research and professional development and includes $500 towards research support.

Wolfgang Polonik, professor and chair of statistics, was selected a 2013 fellow of the American Statistical Association, the world’s largest community of statisticians and the second oldest continuously operating professional society in the United States. Professor Polonik is recognized for his significant contributions to statistical methodology and theory in nonparametric statistics and time series analysis, for sustained leadership, and for service to the statistics profession.

Howard Spero, chair of geology, received a Humboldt Research Award from the German government. The award is granted in recognition of a researcher's entire achievements to date to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future. Winners are invited to spend a period of up to one year cooperating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at a research institution in Germany. Spero will use the award of 60,000 Euros (about $78,000) towards a sabbatical in Germany next academic year.

Charles Lesher, professor of geology, was selected as a Niels Bohr Professor by the Danish National Research Foundation. The Niels Bohr program has the distinct purpose of enriching Danish research communities with top-class researchers from abroad. A total of 167 MDKK is reserved for 6 professorships, and the Niels Bohr professors will the next five years spend from 50 to 100 percent of their time in Danish research environments. This is a 30 Mil DKK ($5,000,000) prize, and Professor Lesher is the first geoscientist to win the award.  

Tessa Hill, assistant professor of geology and at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, earned a prestigious National Science Foundation Early Career Development award. Hill will receive $613,000 over five years to study how marine ecosystems have responded to abrupt climate change during the past 20,000 years. Using seafloor sediment records from along the California coast, Hill will reconstruct how marine species respond to, and recover from, periods of rapid environmental change, with an eye toward predicting the response of these same species to human-induced climate change. As part of the project, Hill will work with the UC Davis Math and Science Teaching program to integrate the results into a sixth-grade curriculum.

Sandra Carlson, professor of geology, was elected President of the Paleontological Society, an international society devoted to advancing the science of paleontology.

Louise Kellogg, professor of geology, has been elected to the membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Election to the academy honors individual accomplishment and calls upon members to serve the public good.

James Crutchfield, professor of physics, won the 2013 SIAM Teaching Dynamical Systems Contest for his graduate course on "Natural Computation and Self-Organization", Physics 256AB. The course "was selected as a winner for its intellectual contributions to teaching in our field, as well as its level of novelty and appeal in the classroom." In addition to the recognition there is a $750 prize.

Warren Pickett, distinguished professor of physics, was appointed to Visiting Professor positions in the Graphene Research Center, Department of Physics, National University of Singapore, and at the Institute of Computational and Theoretical Studies of Hong Kong Baptist University during academic 2012-13.

Lloyd Knox, professor of physics, was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society.  The criterion for election is exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise; e.g., outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education. Fellowship is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one's professional peers.

Louise Berben, assistant professor of chemistry, was awarded the Chemical Communications Emerging Investigator Lectureship which will provide funds for three lectures including at least one to be presented at an international conference.

Robert Svoboda, professor of physics, was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society for his numerous contributions to the study of the neutrino, and development of technologies for neutrino detection. His contributions include the first observation of neutrinos from the supernova SN1987A, and development of large underground neutrino detectors such s IMB, Super-Kamikande, and Kamland that have resulted in the definitive discovery of neutrino oscillations.

Bryan Enderle, lecturer of chemistry, had a TEDx Talk exhibition at UC Davis. TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. At Enderle's event, he uses modern science to make certain fantastic aspects of a modern God more plausible. In doing so he creates a space where science and religion can coexist.

Alexandra Navrotsky, professor and director of NEAT, was selected to deliver the 2013-14 William Mong Distinguished Lecture by Hong Kong University. The William Mong Distinguished Lectures in Engineering are organized to facilitate exchange of new ideas and developments in the field of engineering and to strengthen the ties between the industry and the University. In principle, two to five distinguished scholars or leading engineers from overseas or in Hong Kong are invited    to deliver lectures each year. Navrotsky was recognized for her academic contributions and achievements, and will spend five days at the university interacting with teachers and students.

Isabel Montanez, professor of geology, presented the F. Earl Ingerson Lecture, one of two annual lectures offered by the Geochemical Society. The recipient is selected annually by the Board of Directors of the Society.

Isabel Montanez, professor of geology, was elected a Fellow of the Society by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Fellows are recognized for meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications.

Charles Fadley, distinguished professor of physics, was awarded a Senior Visiting Professorship Award of 185k Eu (ca. $235k) from the French national program to promote world-class laboratories in physics (Laboratoires d'Excellence: Physique: Atomes, Lumiere, Matiere--PALM) that will provide support over 2013-2015 as a senior visiting professor in the Paris-Saclay Triangle de Physique.  The Triangle includes the University de Paris Sud, the CEA Saclay Laboratory, and the newly-commissioned national synchrotron radiation facility Soleil.  The award is entitled Advanced Photoemission Techniques for Complex Materials--APTCOM, and it includes sabbatical, postdoctoral, and equipment support, to begin in 2013.  The research collaborations in the Triangle will involve studies of magnetic and strongly correlated materials and nanostructures with soft and hard x-ray angle-resolved, as well as standing-wave-excited, photoemission, together with photoelectron microscopy.

Howard J. Spero, professor and chair of geology, was elected a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science for "fundamental contributions to the understanding of the isotope and trace metal geochemistry of marine microfossils and, ultimately, the history of life and climate in the past." Spero, a paleoceanographer, conducts geochemical analyses on the shells of recent and fossil marine organisms. This allows him to reconstruct past Earth climate from the geological record.

Howard Spero, professor of geology, received a Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.  During the next year, Spero will be spending 6 months in Germany conducting geochemical experiments and research on past climate change in Earth history with colleagues at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar Research in Bremerhaven.

Louise Berben, assistant professor of chemistry, has been selected by the Chemical Communications Editorial Board as the winner of the ChemComm Emerging Investigator Lectureship 2013. She will present a ChemComm Emerging Investigator Lecture at three different locations over the course of 12 months including an International venue. 

Jiming Jiang, professor of statistics, was invited by the U.S. Census Bureau to present the 2013 DSMD Distinguished Lecture in Washington, D.C.. This Distinguished Lecture Series is organized by the Demographic Statistical Methods Division of the U.S. Census Bureau. Jiming Jiang's lecture was also accompanied with his week-long visit to the Census Bureau.

Eldridge Moores, professor emeritus of geology, has been awarded the title of UC Davis distinguished professor emeritus. This title is awarded annually by the UC Davis Emeriti Association on the basis of outstanding contributions following retirement in the traditional areas of teaching, research and service.

Kai Liu, Professor of Physics, was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society for contributions to the understanding of magnetoresistance effects, exchange bias, and magnetization reversal in magnetic nanostructures.

Latest Grants and Research


Rena Zieve, professor physics, was awarded a $320,000 grant by National Science Foundation. The grant continues our summer undergraduate research program for another three years, where students from around the country spend 10 weeks in research groups in the UC Davis Physics Department.  We expect to fund 12 students per year directly from the grant.  We are also exploring ways to extend the grant, notably through a partnership with Mexico that will enable two Mexican undergraduates to join our group in the coming summer.  If successful, the Mexican partnership will be expanded in future years.

Kirill Kovnir, assistant professor of chemistry, was awarded a $450,000 grant by the Department of Energy. This project is devoted to the development of novel thermoelectric materials based on tetrel-free (without group 14 elements) clathrate compounds with d- and f-elements.

Ethan Anderes was awarded $400,000 over five years to study smooth invertible deformations for statistics, image analysis and gravitational lensing problems in cosmology. Anderes aims to make these statistical tools more widely available and easier for scientists and statisticians to use.  In addition, Anderes will develop recent results found in the theory of optimal transport with the goal of providing a rigorous theoretical foundation for quantifying morphological structure in the statistical analysis of images. The project will also help train graduate students in statistics who can work with these tools across a broad range of interdisciplinary fields.

Xi Chen, associate professor of chemistry, has been selected as the winner of the Carbohydrate Research Award for Creativity in Carbohydrate Chemistry 2013.  Given every two years, the award was established in 2001 by the Editors and the Publisher of Carbohydrate Research and consists of a check for $1000, a certificate and a complimentary subscription to the journal for two years.  Professor Chen has also been invited as plenary lecture at the 17th European Carbohydrate Symposium in Tel Aviv, Israel this summer.

Alexandra Navrotsky, interdisciplinary professor of ceramic, earth and environmental materials chemistry, among other contributors in the Ames National Laboratory, has been awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Energy to create the Critical Materials Institute, a new research center. The five-year, $120 million grant will bring together leading researchers from academia, four Department of Energy national laboratories, as well as the private sector for this major research project.

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