Five named to Swanlund Chairs, campus's premier endowed recognition

Five professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named Swanlund Chairs, the highest endowed titles on the Urbana campus.

The new Swanlund Chairs are Eric Freyfogle, law; Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, chemistry; Thomas Huang, electrical and computer engineering; John Rogers, materials science and engineering; Stephen Sligar, biochemistry.

“I congratulate our five new Swanlund Chairs,” said Phyllis M. Wise, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “Their contributions in teaching, discovery and engagement continue to push the boundaries of what we know and how we use that knowledge to make a better world. The global reputation for excellence enjoyed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is apparent in the work and dedication of our faculty, students and staff. These five distinguished members of our faculty raise the expectations and the aspirations of all of us in the Illinois family.”

Freyfogle’s work is broadly interdisciplinary – drawing upon history, philosophy, biological sciences, economics and literature – and is guided by a conservation ethic that seeks better ways for humans to live in nature. He is a prolific writer on ecology and conservation issues. Widely considered to be an international expert on environmental policy and land conservation, he is the author or editor of 12 books focusing on issues involving the complex relationship between humans and nature, and has lectured around the world on these topics. His scholarly articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the law reviews at Cornell, Duke, Michigan, New York University, Stanford, UCLA and Yale.

Hammes-Schiffer’s research focuses on the investigation of proton, electron and proton-coupled electron transfer reactions in chemical, biological and interfacial processes. Her work encompasses the development of analytical theories and computational methods, as well as applications to a wide range of experimentally relevant systems. Her research has important implications for protein engineering and drug design, and for the interpretation of experimental results in this field. She was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012, and is a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Chemical Society.

Huang has spent his career making major contributions to human-centered computing in general and to image processing/computer vision in particular. Huang’s work has enabled modern computing to evolve to its current state and will enable its continued evolution. Because of his work, there are now a seemingly endless number of ways to capture, store and share images. He has contributed more than anyone else to the technical underpinning of current international fax, image and video-compression standards. Huang was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2001 and has won numerous national and international awards.

Rogers’ groundbreaking research on flexible formats for electronic devices has transformed the way the world thinks about electronics manufacturing, devices for solar-energy conversion, and the interfaces between electronics and biology. His research includes fundamental and applied aspects of nano and molecular scale fabrication as well as materials and patterning techniques for unusual electronic and photonic devices, with an emphasis on bio-integrated and bio-inspired systems. Two major start-up companies have evolved from his work (MC10 and Semprius). A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Rogers was named a MacArthur Fellow (2009), won the Lemelson-MIT Prize in 2011 and was chosen by Nature magazine as one of “Ten People Who Mattered in 2012.” He is the author of more than 350 journal articles.

Sligar revolutionized mammalian gene expression and mutagenesis by creating novel synthetic genes for bacterial expression. He invented “nanodisc” device technology to isolate, characterize and deliver membrane proteins. He has made pioneering and seminal contributions to metalloprotein biochemistry and biophysics, including cytochrome P450s, hemoglobin, myoglobin, and electron transfer proteins. Sligar is the author of more than 325 published articles and has a long record of internationally recognized scholarship, cross-campus service, outstanding teaching and visionary leadership. The director of the School of Chemical Sciences from 1994 to 1997, Sligar has been the director of the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology since 2007. A fellow of the Biophysical Society, Sligar also is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

This year’s five new chairs join 10 other scholars (see list) who are current Swanlund Chairs. The program was made possible by a gift from alumna Maybelle Leland Swanlund. 

Swanlund, who received a degree in library studies from Illinois in 1932 and who died in 1993, provided a $12 million endowment for chairs to attract leaders in the arts and sciences at the university and recognize current faculty members who have made exceptional contributions in their fields. The awards are for five years and may be renewed.

Swanlund Endowed Chairs
• Tamer Basar, electrical and computer engineering
• May Berenbaum, entomology
• Leon Dash, journalism
• Eric Freyfogle, law (2012)
• Nigel Goldenfeld, physics
• Laura Greene, physics
• Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, chemistry (2012)
• Frederick Hoxie, history
• Thomas Huang, electrical and computer engineering (2012)
• Arthur Kramer, psychology
• Gene Robinson, entomology
• John Rogers, materials science and engineering (2012)
• Klaus Schulten, physics
• Stephen Sligar, biochemistry (2012)
• Daniel Sullivan, theatre