New Regents' Professors Appointed

April 24, 2008
Howard Ochman
Howard Ochman
Elizabeth Vierling
Elizabeth Vierling
Richard Wilkinson
Richard Wilkinson

The Arizona Board of Regents approved the designation of three new Regents' Professors at The University of Arizona, the highest honor awarded by the University to its faculty members.

Professors Howard Ochman, Elizabeth Vierling and Richard Wilkinson have received the prestigious title because their academic achievements have garnered them national and international recognition.

Regents' Professor is an honor awarded only to full professors. No more than 3 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty members may hold the rank at any given time.

Becoming a Regents' Professor at the UA requires nominations from other tenured faculty members. After an advisory committee reviews the nominations, the president then decides which names to forward to the Arizona Board of Regents for approval. The designation comes with a permanent $5,000 annual salary increase.

Professor Howard Ochman

Ochman, a professor in the ecology and evolutionary biology department and the biochemistry and molecular biophysics department, has helped confront major heath care challenges throughout his research.

Focusing on how bacterial genomes evolve, his research has illuminated basic principles of biological evolution and fostered understanding of the relationships between such fundamental processes and the mechanisms by which bacteria become pathogenic.

Ochman's seminal discovery that bacteria can readily acquire new genes by horizontal transfer from other distantly related species has revealed how antibiotic resistance can migrate among species. These studies, as well as others carried out by Ochman, have been recognized widely by the scientific community.

He is among "five people in the world who are clearly leading the whole field of microbiology into a new and much more comprehensive understanding of gene and genome evolution," said Professor W.F. Doolittle from Dalhousie University in Canada, whose comments were included in materials supporting Ochman's nomination. "Howard has been in the business the longest and has probably had the greatest influence."

Ochman developed an exceptionally successful undergraduate course titled "Human Genetics and Evolution," and, at the graduate level, has been heavily involved in the University's NSF-IGERT Program in Genomics.

Through the program, he has taught two courses. One, "Problems in Genomics," has been very successful and has resulted in student-authored papers in top journals.

Professor Elizabeth Vierling

Vierling, a professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of biological responses to heat stress.

Her work with small heat shock proteins, known as sHSPs, which had been poorly studied prior to her research, has made her an authority on the structure and function of this essential class of molecules.

Vierling was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000, elected to fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002 and earned a prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Fellow Award in 2007 from Germany.

Her outstanding research program has been continuously funded by competitive grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Vierling has published her research findings in the top-tier journals of her field. She has played a key role in the development of interdisciplinary training programs at the UA, and has been an organizer and plenary speaker at national and international conferences in her field and served on prestigious editorial boards and grant review panels.

Professor Richard Wilkinson

Wilkinson, a professor in the departments of classics and Near Eastern Studies, is internationally renowned for his eight popular books on Egyptology, which have been translated into 19 languages.

He also is famous for his leadership of the UA Egyptian Expedition and his excavations in the Valley of the Kings, most notably of the mortuary temple of the 12th century B.C.E. Queen Tausert, one of the few Egyptian queens who ruled Egypt as pharaoh.

Wilkinson's numerous grants from institutions such as the Amarna Foundation, the American Research Center in Egypt and the Petty Foundation, along with his hugely successful books on Egypt, his 33 trend-setting articles and his consultancy to the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, have made him one of the 30 most important Egyptologists in the history of his field, according to a recent online survey.

His work on ancient hieroglyphs, "Reading Egyptian Art," was selected by the journal Antiquity as its Archaeology Book of the Year. "People like Richard Wilkinson contribute to the progress of knowledge in the best sense of the term," said Greek archaeologist Nanno Marinatos. "His work in Egyptian iconography, religion and symbolism is a landmark in the history of Egyptian research. Most Egyptologists are art historians, archaeologists or textual scholars. Richard Wilkinson is all three."